First appeared in BOXSCORE
By Aron Solomon
Okay. Good news first. Instead of wasting massive amounts of time and money in courtrooms, the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour (the European tour, essentially), and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) have announced a groundbreaking agreement to bring together golf on a global scale.
The parties have signed a deal that merges PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights, including LIV Golf, with those of the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour. According to the PAG (more on this below) “this collaboration establishes a new, jointly owned, for-profit entity that aims to maximize excitement and competition among the world’s top golfers, ensuring benefits for all stakeholders.”
PIF will also make a capital investment in the new entity to facilitate its growth and success. The yet-to-be-named organization will implement a strategic plan to expand the combined commercial businesses, enhance fan engagement, and accelerate ongoing growth initiatives. With LIV Golf currently in its second groundbreaking season, the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour, and PIF will collaborate to showcase and promote team golf in the future.
Importantly, today’s announcement will lead to the mutual resolution of all pending litigation between the involved parties. The three organizations (who hate each other’s guts) “will work together in good faith to establish a fair and unbiased process for players who wish to re-apply for membership with the PGA TOUR or the DP World Tour after the conclusion of the 2023 season.” This process will determine fair criteria and terms of re-admission in line with each Tour’s policies.
Now the bad news, and there’s PLENTY of it:
This is literally going to be the greatest instance of “sportswashing” in history.
For those unfamiliar with the term, sportswashing is a term used to describe the act of sponsoring a sports team or event in order to distract from bad practices elsewhere. It is a practice used by controversial companies or countries to improve their reputation. The term is also used when a corrupt or tyrannical regime (here read: “Saudi Arabia”) uses sport to enhance its reputation.
I’ll make it as simple as possible:
The equation here is “We get to dismember the occasional journalist and you get golf tournaments with $40 million purses instead of $20 million.”
In this light, a collective sigh needs to be directed towards PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan, who, this morning, as part of a practically North Korean-toned press release that I straight-up steal from throughout this piece, expressed enthusiasm, stating, “After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love. This transformative partnership recognizes the immense strength of the PGA TOUR’s history, legacy, and pro-competitive model. By combining forces with the DP World Tour and LIV, including the team golf concept, we will create an organization that benefits golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners, and fans. Fans can be confident that we will continue to deliver on our promise to promote competition among the best in professional golf and secure the game’s future.”
If this wasn’t sufficiently unctuous, PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan remarked, “Today is a very exciting day for this special game and the people it touches around the world. We are proud to partner with the PGA TOUR, leveraging PIF’s success and expertise in unlocking value and introducing innovation and global best practices to various industries. Our commitment is to unify, promote, and grow the game of golf worldwide, offering a high-quality product to millions of longstanding fans while cultivating new ones.”
Some of you might be asking “Hey – what about all of those PGA golfers who chose to remain loyal to the tour and not jump ship and take LIV money,” to which I respond:
The absolutely delicious irony here that has emerged in the two hours since this news dropped is that many of these golfers HAD NO IDEA that was all happening.
Reaction from Sahith Theegala. Players just in absolute shock. pic.twitter.com/E8rCLvOtCi— Gabby Herzig (@GabbyHerzig) June 6, 2023
Others, who listened to Tiger Woods (protip: never ever listen to Tiger Woods) and didn’t make the move to LIV with the generational wealth it was offering even the most washed-up of the washed-up now reunite with their wealthier brethren and can at least eat from a collectively larger pie that has more succulent fruit.
But before we end this already over-long rant, let’s make one thing clear:
The Saudis have essentially purchased golf today.
If you’re cool with that, cool.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Fo