PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger: What we know about the controversial agreement no one saw coming

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has brokered a controversial merger with the Saudia Arabia Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour merger with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (which bankrolls the LIV Golf League) announced Tuesday was a stunning, shocking development, especially since the sides had engaged in court battles and a war of words for more than a year.

What's next? Steve Spurrier becoming Kirby Smart's offensive coordinator?

The merger includes a commercial for-profit side (the PGA Tour will still retain 501(c)(6) status as a member-based trade organization) with the Tour having a majority stake.

More coverage on the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger

Tom D'Angelo: LIV Golf, minus Greg Norman, the big winner in merger with PGA Tour

Jack Nicklaus approves: PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger 'good for the game of golf'

Players meeting gets heated: Monahan says 'people are going to call me a hypocrite' over LIV merger

Seemingly in the past is the criticism that the PIF was engaging in “sportswashing,” using sports such as golf, soccer and F1 Racing to try to make the world forget that Saudi Arabia is run by its autocratic royal family, oppresses women, has strict laws and harsh punishments against homosexuality and adultery and was the home country for most of the 9-11 hijackers.

“Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan asked last year.

Monahan also suspended every PGA Tour member who jumped to LIV Golf and said numerous times there was no avenue for them to return — ever.

His tunes have changed.

“I recognize everything I’ve said in the past. I recognize people will call me a hypocrite," Monahan said in a conference call Tuesday. "Any time I’ve said anything, I’ve said it with the information I had, and I said it with someone trying to compete with our tour and our players.”

Monahan said many details remain to be ironed out. Here’s what we know at this point:

Why now, after more than a year of angry words and litigation?

The latter could be the key. The PGA Tour had won nearly every legal battle in the suits and countersuits in Federal court and what was reportedly haunting the Saudis is that PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and other Saudi nationals involved in LIV Golf were going to be subject to being deposed and to discovery after a judge ruled they weren't subject to sovereign immunity.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan (left) governor of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi (center) and Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf watch at the first tee during the second round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on July 30, 2022.

As part of the merger, all legal action on both sides will end. The Tour also has been the subject of a Department of Justice investigation over its suspension of players who defected to LIV and that will likely go away also.

It all came down to money, didn't it?

Doesn't everything in 21st-century sports, from college football playoffs to golf? Monahan admitted Tuesday that with legal fees and rising purses, the Tour was looking at operating at a loss in 2023. The injection of capital from the PIF turns that around.

But what about the money coming from a repressive regime?

Monahan said the game as a whole would be better if the two factions made peace, or, as he said, "we were better off together than we were fighting or apart."

He said keeping the battle going wasn't sustainable and realized that critics would call him out for being a hypocrite. "I accept those criticisms ... but circumstances do change."

And as far as working with Saudi Arabia, that country is still a long-standing ally of the United States and last year approved a $3 billion sale of Patriot missiles to that country. It’s also been pointed out that other PGA Tour sponsors such as AT&T have business ties to Saudi Arabia and the Ladies European Tour plays a tournament there and is sponsored by the PIF.

What brought Monahan around?

Jimmy Dunne, a Notre Dame graduate, member of Augusta National, Seminole and Pine Valley and founder of the investment banking firm Sandler O'Neill and Partners, was added to the PGA Tour Policy Board last fall. He worked behind the scenes for the last two months brokering the two warring factions and eventually, Monahan met Al-Rumayyan in London.

The meetings even included two rounds of golf. Over time, according to the Associated Press, Monahan realized how deep the well of money PIF was willing to throw into LIV Golf and was in for the long haul. Despite the increase in PGA Tour purses through tapping into reserves and asking more from sponsors, the Tour had limits — unlike the PIF.

Why weren’t the Tour players informed?

The PGA Tour Policy Board, which includes five players, usually approves major changes to the Tour schedule, structure and rules. The players also give Monahan and his staff latitude to make other management decisions.

Monahan relied on that latter flexibility to make the deal and worry about the fallout later — which is considerable.

“Our players expect us to operate in the best interests of the Tour,” he told AP.

There are already different opinions on that.

“I feel betrayed, and will not ... be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA Tour for a very long time," veteran player Wesley Bryan posted on Twitter.

What happens to the LIV Golf schedule?

The remaining seven events (Spain, London, Bedminster, Chicago, Miami and Saudi Arabia) will be played. LIV as a stand-alone tour appears to be over after 2023 but the team aspect may be incorporated into the 2024 PGA Tour schedule.

Will the LIV players be welcomed back?

Monahan said it will be "complicated" since there will be hard feelings from players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour and didn't take the guaranteed money from LIV Golf. The door is certainly more open under the announced merger.

But don't expect players such as Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson or Phil Mickelson to play anything other than the U.S. Open and British Open the rest of this season.

The merger said that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf will work "in good faith to establish a fair and objective process" for LIV players to return. It's another question that remains unanswered.

Where is Greg Norman in all this?

The LIV Golf CEO wasn't a part of the negotiations and Al-Rumayyan said he didn't notify Norman until minutes before the merger was announced. Norman also wasn't mentioned in the initial release and hasn't been made available to the media. Given his combative nature in pushing the LIV agenda, it's not inconceivable that pushing him aside was part of the deal.

Who's actually going to be running the PGA Tour?

Monahan is listed as the CEO of the merged Tours and Al-Rumayyan the chairman. Since the PIF is injecting the most capital into the venture, the case can be made that Al-Rumayyan is in charge. Money talks, in other words.

Even if that's the case, Al-Rumayyan may still stay in the background and let Monahan and DP World Tour head Keith Pelley be the frontmen. It was his pattern with LIV Golf and Norman — indeed, PIF attorneys argued that in Federal Court when they wanted to keep Al-Rumayyan from being deposed.

Al-Rumayyan will be added to the Tour Policy Board but the players will not lose more of their representation.

Will the PGA Tour remain headquartered in Ponte Vedra?

One would think this a silly question, given the opening in 2021 of the $60 million Global Home and the PGA Tour Entertainment building coming online next year. The question is getting asked, however.

Given the moving of the World Golf Hall of Fame to Pinehurst, N.C., later this year, 25 years after it opened as supposedly the Mecca of golf history right off I-95, is anything off the table?

However, a PGA Tour spokesman issued a one-word answer to a Times-Union inquiry as to whether the Tour stays on the First Coast: "Yes."

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger: What we know about golf's stunning deal