The PGA Tour has agreed to merge with its former rival, the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, in one of the wildest about-faces in professional sports.

The new agreement will bring together the PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the European Tour (also known as the DP World Tour), with the deal being described in a press release as “a landmark agreement to unify the game of golf, on a global basis.” This new global golf conglomerate — which doesn’t have a name yet — is described as a “collectively owned, for-profit entity” that will aim to bring “maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.” 

In a statement, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan — who just one year ago was calling LIV Golf an “an irrational threat” — said, “After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love.”

Indeed, professional golf has been consumed with “disruption and distraction,” as well as legal squabbling and multimillion-dollar contracts since LIV Golf launched in Oct. 2021. Backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf was able to poach some of the top golfers in the world from the PGA Tour, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, offering not only insanely lucrative contracts, but enormous tournament prizes. (Full disclosure: In 2018, the PIF acquired a stake in Rolling Stone’s parent company, Penske Media Corporation.) 

LIV Golf was, of course, hounded with accusations that it was effectively a “sports-washing” endeavor meant to rehabilitate Saudi Arabia’s public image. The country has faced numerous allegations of human rights abuses, and a 2021 U.S. intelligence report alleged that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman approved the 2018 assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nevertheless, LIV Golf charged ahead with its first season in 2022. Even former president Donald Trump — who spent years alleging the Saudi government was responsible for 9/11 — got in on the action, with two LIV events taking place at Trump-owned properties. At the first event last year, he even told reporters that “nobody’s got to the bottom of 9/11.” (The Saudi government has long denied allegations of direct involvement in the planning and execution of 9/11.)

As part of its efforts to put up a bulwark, the PGA Tour notably suspended players who joined LIV. But that led to not only a Justice Department investigation into the PGA Tour’s allegedly anticompetitive behavior, but also a lawsuit filed by several LIV players seeking to also compete on the PGA Tour. Back in February, the judge overseeing the case even ruled the head of the PIF, Yasir al-Rumayyan, would have to sit for a deposition, potentially leading to major revelations about how the fund operates. 


While the PIF’s lawyers planned to challenge that ruling, they won’t even have to bother now, as the PGA/LIV merger means both sides will drop all pending litigation. Additionally, players who joined LIV Golf will have the chance to reapply for membership to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season. And not only will the new entity see significant investment from the PIF, but it will also adopt some of the team play events LIV Golf introduced to its tour. 

Despite all the controversy and fighting, the PGA/LIV merger seems almost inevitable in some ways — a classic mix of “money always talks” and can’t-beat-em-join-em mentalities. Even amidst all the vociferous criticism and stringent suspensions, Monahan seemed to recognize the existential threat LIV Golf posed to the PGA Tour: “If this is an arms race, and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” he said last June. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.”