In the wake of the stunning announcement yesterday that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia are going to combine assets to form a new, for-profit entity that will effectively own the highest levels of men's professional golf, there are way more questions than answers at this point.
Even after Jay Monahan took a world-class peppering in a player meeting at the RBC Canadian Open, Bryson DeChambeau took an incredibly awkward and damning victory lap on CNN and Brandel Chamblee had his go of things during Golf Channel's marathon coverage, there are still a lot of unknowns. Like, a lot.
So, here is the running question list of things we need to find out, work out or learn as this all unfolds.
All the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, PIF merger questions
- Is Greg Norman out? Norman's son seemed thrilled with the news on Twitter, but it's key to note that the announcement didn't mention his name once, and the agreement is with the Public Investment Fund, not LIV Golf.
- Is LIV Golf done? While the announcement did say the 2023 LIV Golf season will continue as scheduled, there's no indication that a 2024 season will happen. LIV Golf as we know it could well be done, though the pithy line that "team golf" could be worked into the new world seems like a throwaway concession.
- If LIV Golf is done, are the team franchises also done? The notion that LIV Golf teams had any value whatsoever was hilarious, but will this coming together ultimately end them, preserve them or somehow lead to an expansion of them?
- But LIV Golf's ratings were terrible, so why do this? It sure feels like this had a whole lot more to do with money, lawsuits, discovery, the PGA Tour's business model shift and the Saudis' unlimited money than anything related to LIV Golf. LIV Golf was a means to an end. It was a multi-billion-dollar tactic that led to their purchase of men's major professional golf in a year.
- How much Saudi money is being added here? The announcement said the Public Investment Fund will be a minority equity holder in this new for-profit company, but what's their exact stake? Are we talking 20 percent or 49.9 percent?
- What, then, is the valuation of the PGA Tour? How much the Saudis put in will be based on the agreed-to combined valuation of these assets, including the DP World Tour and whatever value is assigned to LIV.
- Will Jay Monahan survive the year as Commissioner? Monahan gave the players an outlet to call for his resignation en masse, but he has negotiated for himself a role as both the PGA Tour Inc. Commissioner and the CEO of this new entity. He has effectively installed himself as the head of men's professional golf in what feels like a move of self-preservation.
- Will there be shorts on the PGA Tour? This one isn't as serious, but it's a process question.
- What about the PIF investment in the Asian Tour? The Saudis agreed to invest $300 million in the Asian Tour over 10 years, in part to establish a feeder system for LIV Golf and to potentially gain OWGR points. They don't need either now, so do they drop out of that contract of spend that drop in the bucket to keep it alive?
- Will the LIV players get paid all of their contracts? Some of the players negotiated up-front deals which have been paid. Some negotiated an up-front payment with other installments. Will those contracts be paid out in full if LIV Golf ends?
- Will the PGA Tour loyalists get smoothed over financially? Obviously a ton of players who stuck with the PGA Tour and spoke out publicly have to be angry at this development. There's a possibility the Saudis stroke a bunch more checks to buy their support. Maybe not the LIV Golf money they would have gotten, but something approximating it.
- How quickly did this come together? There's a thought that this came together very quickly, but is that true? Did this bonding over a round in London happen recently, or has this super-secret negotiation been ongoing for months?
- Who owned the rest of LIV Golf? The Public Investment Fund is said to own 85 percent of LIV Golf. We don't know the people or entities that own the other 15 percent. If some of those folks are LIV Golf players or principals, they could be about to be worth a lot more money (at least on paper).
- Did Jay Monahan get paid to do this deal? This question came up among the players at the Canadian Open on Tuesday, and there's no clear answer here.
- What about the MENA Tour? I'm just kidding.
- What brought the PGA Tour to the table? It could have been a variety of things, like mounting legal fees, struggles in maintaining sponsors at various levels of the tour, the prospect of a decade-long legal battle. Or it could have simply been about letting the Saudis get what they really wanted, while feeling like they could take a victory lap for ending LIV Golf.
- Will LIV Golf players be penalized in some way before they can come back to the PGA Tour? The PGA Tour loyalists would certainly want this to happen, but with the PIF being the money people in this, is that really going to happen?
- Will the PGA Tour schedule changes remain in place? Now that the designated events structure has been created, will it be overhauled in favor or whatever becomes of these combined entities?
- Does Keith Pelley have a job? Going back to the prior question, Pelley's role moving forward seems like it could either not change much or completely change.
- What about the Sunshine Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australiasia, Korean Tour and other DP World Tour co-sanctioning partners? They're not part of this deal explicitly, so will they become part of it eventually or get excluded from it or just continue to deal with this new entity as they have been doing?
- What about TGL? It very much sounds like TGL will still be happening, but how that all relates to the new entity seems somewhat in the air now.
- What's to stop Ari Emanuel from starting his own golf league? The Endeavor owner, who just architected the purchase of WWE, said recently that Jay Monahan asked him to not invest $1 billion in the LIV concept before the Saudis had the chance. Would he consider starting his own league and poaching players out of pure spite or a sense of opportunity?
- Why didn't Jay Monahan pursue American-based investment in a new entity instead of the PIF? This was a question that came up in the player meeting, and it's a good one. What could the Tour have done with Emanuel's money or going to individual sponsors and perhaps seeing if they wanted to go from sponsorship to ownership. Of course, the Saudis don't have shareholders that care about how they spend their money, and private investment wouldn't have made the lawsuits go away.
- Did LIV Golf win? No, but the Saudis did.
- Was Phil right? I think Phil will try to paint himself as a genius, a visionary. I'm not so sure about that.
- Will the LPGA become involved in this somehow? It seems inevitable, given that the Saudis already have been sponsoring a team series on the Ladies European Tour in a bit of a precursor to LIV Golf. The Saudis want to improve their global reputation, and it would seem they would view an investment in women's sports as a way of trying to do that.
- How about what this means for the Korn Ferry Tour? Will purses increase for that tour, or will it be viewed the same or less by the Saudis who seem intensely focused on superstar golfers and not up-and-comers.
- Will Brandel Chamblee continue to work for Golf Channel? He expressed his views yesterday and said he hoped to someday get back to talking about golf as his job, but will he ultimately walk away from this gig over all of this?
- What does Andy Gardiner have to say about all this? He's the guy who was the front man for the Premier Golf League, whose premise the Saudis and LIV Golf stole and made their own. Now the new organization will be effectively what he proposed to Jay Monahan, just without player equity and his involvement.
- Will the players get any ownership stake in this? Gardiner pitched that to Monahan, so will that be a piece of the pie here?
- Will the players unionize? At different points in golf history, the players have talked about unionizing, but it didn't work. Could it now that this new entity will be a for-profit organization? Would the superstars be willing to team up with the lesser-known, lesser-talented players to bring up their pay, too?
- Will the remaining LIV Golf events get world-ranking points? I ask this somewhat facetiously, but there are still seven LIV Golf events. If the LIV Golf players get no world-ranking points, their rankings will still drop like a rock. That will hurt their position in the majors for at least 2024.
- Will the LIV Golf players be allowed to play in the Ryder Cup again, or to captain a team? The LIV Golf players that resigned their DP World Tour membership aren't eligible for the Ryder Cup now, but will they be welcomed back to the DP World Tour and the Ryder Cup fold now? Or will there be a permanent strain? Could Henrik Stenson get another crack at captain?
- Will the PGA of America be unhappy about this new entity owning a piece of the Ryder Cup? The DP World Tour owns the biggest stake of the European side of the Ryder Cup, which presumably means this new entity will moving forward. Or no? How does the PGA of America feel about that?
- Will the Department of Justice object to this deal? They already have an investigation going into the PGA Tour from an anti-trust perspective, and it would seem this DOJ is not particularly keen on monopolistic activities, much less blockbuster merger-like activities.
- Will the Department of Justice drop its anti-trust investigation into the PGA Tour? That's still a thing, as far as we know, and yesterday's developments didn't change that.