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Players feel 'betrayed' as PGA Tour partners with Saudi-backed LIV

The PGA Tour said it has formed an agreement with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, ending a feud with its LIV Golf venture.
Players feel 'betrayed' as PGA Tour partners with Saudi-backed LIV
Posted at 10:31 AM, Jun 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-06 20:23:27-04

The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that it has formed an agreement with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf to form a new collectively owned entity. 

Many details of the agreement have not been announced, but the tours said this brings an end to litigation between the entities. Golfers who entered LIV Golf events were blacklisted from PGA Tour events. Major tournaments, like this month’s U.S. Open, still allowed LIV Golf participation. 

LIV Golf has paid out massive purses to lure some of the game’s top performers. LIV Golf also took heat as it was backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Groups have claimed it is part of Saudi Arabia’s “sportswashing” effort to erase the nation’s alleged human rights violations.

A number of PGA Tour members who did not join LIV indicated they found out about the announcement via Twitter. Tour pro Wesley Bryan was among those criticizing the partnership.

"Love finding out info on twitter. This is amazing. Y’all should be ashamed and have a lot of questions to answer," he tweeted. "I feel betrayed, and will not not be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA TOUR for a very long time."

Mackenzie Hughes won his first PGA Tour event in October, months after LIV plucked dozens of top golfers. 

"Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with," he tweeted.

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Former major champions such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen jumped at the LIV tour. Five-time majors champ Brooks Koepka broke his four-year drought without a major title after joining LIV.

Besides its large payouts, LIV is known for its smaller 48-man fields, shorter 54-hole tournaments, no weekend cuts and team events. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan noted LIV’s team format in the Tour’s announcement. 

“This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA Tour’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV – including the team golf concept – to create an organization that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans,” Monahan said. “Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we’ve always made – to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game’s future.” 

The PGA Tour said it will establish a process to re-admit golfers who joined LIV following the 2023 season.

The new entity will work on creating a cohesive schedule and that the Public Investment Fund will “initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity, alongside the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour."

The PGA Tour said it will continue to operate as a tax-exempt organization and will oversee the sanctioning Tour events, administration of competition, rules and other responsibilities. 

“Today is a very exciting day for this special game and the people it touches around the world,” said Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. “We are proud to partner with the PGA TOUR to leverage PIF’s unparalleled success and track record of unlocking value and bringing innovation and global best practices to business and sectors worldwide. We are committed to unifying, promoting and growing the game of golf around the world and offering the highest-quality product to the many millions of long-time fans globally, while cultivating new fans.”

LIV Golf has its detractors outside of golf. Human Rights Watch says LIV “sportswashes rights abuses.”

“While the kingdom hosts these glamorous events, the Saudi government has intensified the crackdown on peaceful dissent and ramped up executions. Many Saudi activists and dissidents remain on trial or in prison receiving long sentences and some tortured,” Human Rights Watch said earlier this year. “The Crown Prince is rolling out ever more sporting events: sponsors should insist on human rights protections and disclosure and use LIV Golf events to demand human rights reforms.”


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