Winners and Losers in the New PIF-Tour Alliance

The gang is all here as the author weighs in on the fallout from the unveiling of golf’s new world order

By Alan Shipnuck
June 6, 2023

Golf’s year-long fever dream reached a climax on Tuesday morning when every stakeholder in the game was confronted with the most confounding sight imaginable: PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the driving force behind LIV Golf, sitting elbow to elbow on CNBC, all smiles as they announced that the war is over and the Tour, the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the European Tour will be merging into a new, as yet unnamed entity to reunify the game. This ended two months of high-stakes brinksmanship and secret meetings in London, Venice, San Francisco and New York. Only a handful of players were alerted to the breaking news in the minutes before Monahan and Al-Rumayyan went on-air. Every other player and executive on both sides of golf’s great divide found out in real-time.

     “I turned on CNBC and saw Jay and Yasir and it was like, Did I accidentally take an edible?” says one LIV executive.

     PGA Tour veteran Peter Malnati, a member of the board of directors, said, “I’m too stunned to opine.”

     Speak for yourself, Peter. So much remains unknown about how the new mega-tour will function but here is a (very) early look at the winners and losers in the biggest (non-Tiger) golf newsbreak this century.


Golf fans! Putting the sport back together means all of the best players will face off more than just four times a year at the major championships, once all the details get worked out. There was a hole in this year’s Players Championship without defending champion Cam Smith just as Pebble Beach didn’t feel right without Phil Mickelson. The press conference bitchiness and social media daggers will now (mostly) cease, which will be a relief to many fans who have been turned off by the tribal negativity. The new unified superschedule should be far more interesting, incorporating venues from around the world. And incorporating LIV’s team element with more stars and the built-in frisson of mixing old antagonists should add some razzle dazzle. Golf has plenty of 72-hole stroke play events, there is certainly room for a more baked-out team component for maybe half of dozen events on the new unified schedule.

Greg Norman. It remains to be seen if he will have an official role in the new firmament—seems doubtful, since he was glaringly absent in today’s announcement—but Norman has nurtured the idea of a world tour for three decades and been a driving force at LIV, which forced this compromise. He can ride off into the sunset having finally achieved the validation he so desperately needed.

Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and the other LIV captains. They collected huge upfront money and have 25% equity stakes in their teams. The Saudi Public Investment Fund is now underwriting this whole sport and it will be sure to look after the interests of those who have been loyal to LIV. That means ensuring there will be at least a handful of team events on the new schedule, which will drastically inflate the value of the franchises as they get network TV exposure and access to the Tour’s traditional sponsors. For those predicting the demise of the LIV-style team element, that is the core identity of what the PIF has invested in, and, more to the point, LIV has always been Al-Rumayyan’s baby. He will not walk away from it entirely. Otherwise, the PIF is pouring billions of dollars into merely propping up the PGA Tour and European Tour, both of which previously rejected overtures for partnership. One LIV captain, upon hearing the news on Tuesday morning, had this to say: “Time to start recruiting.”

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Mickelson. He’s always wanted to be seen as the smartest guy in the room. For all the hubris, Phil was right.

The European Tour. In golf’s new world order the ET has been reduced to being a feeder for the PGA Tour, and week-to-week the tournaments have few stars and even less buzz. Now the Euro Tour gets a lifeline as part of the new global schedule. Fences will need to be mended, and for CEO Keith Pelley to take a more nuanced approach to reinstatement, but now the possibility exists that the Tour can welcome back Sergio Garcia to the Spanish Open, Lee Westwood to Wentworth, Martin Kaymer to the German Open and bring back into the folk the rest of the big names who decamped to LIV.

Mohammed bin Salman. The scariest motherfucker in geopolitics has staked his reign on Vision 2030, his effort to remake the Saudi society and economy. Growing the sports and leisure sector is a key component and the Saudis now control a global professional sports league that caters to an affluent, sophisticated audience. And the PIF suddenly has new business ties to many of the biggest companies in the world, and the ultimate bit of sportswashing: the stamp of approval from the PGA and European Tours. 

Donald Trump. The USGA, PGA of America, R&A and PGA Tour have all renounced him as a tournament host. But Trump has three venues on this year’s LIV schedule and further commitments going forward. We’ll see if/how they are honored but this merger may give Trump a side door back into the golf world.

Jimmy Dunne. The dude already wakes up and has to decide if he wants to play at Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, Augusta National or Seminole, as he is a member at all of them. Now the ultimate insider has burnished his reputation as golf’s preeminent deal-maker. 

Eugenio Chacarra, James Piot, David Puig, Chase Koepka, Peter Uihlein, sundry others. Earning a spot on the PGA Tour is brutally hard. These college kids and career journeymen signed with LIV and now will have new avenues onto the Tour.

The CW. It is unknown how the existing TV rights for all the tours will be reconciled with the new schedule but the CW is now poised to get some big-time tournaments with an array of stars that will surely attract much bigger numbers than the LIV events have so far this season.

Money. It remains undefeated.


Rory McIlroy. He put his heart and soul into being the Tour’s most outspoken advocate, wearing himself out in the process, only to get sold out by Monahan. The reality is the Tour didn’t need McIlroy anymore. His fierce advocacy helped keep many other stars loyal to the cause, but the Tour had put itself on a financially unsustainable path, with sponsors already beginning to flee. Now that the Tour has access to unlimited oil money, McIlroy is cannon fodder.

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Monahan. He turned the battle with LIV into one of legacy, and then morality. Neither argument kept his players from defecting. Then, despite admitting the Tour could never compete dollar for dollar with the PIF, he tried to do exactly that. LIV was always going to win a war of attrition—anybody could see that. The Saudis reached out to Monahan in April 2021, hoping to partner with the Tour. Monahan wouldn’t take the meeting. He could have co-opted them then with minimal disruption to his business. Instead he chose to fight, and now the Tour as we knew it is no more. One fired-up player agent texted this to me on Tuesday afternoon: “The facts are this: Jay grossly misjudged the resources and fortitude of the PIF and did nothing proactive to make the tour less vulnerable to a competitive offering. Upon realizing that the PIF would finance LIV with huge economic incentives, Jay’s solution was to restructure the tour schedule and purses but he failed to ensure that such changes were economically viable. The marketplace answered that question definitively as sponsors were lining up to get out of their deals. The suggestion that the tour’s outlook was bright was wishful thinking at best. With Koepka’s win at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour’s ultimate plan of ‘waiting them out’ as washed-up diminishing assets became more of a dream than a strategic plan to combat an existential threat. Jay has proven to be grossly unqualified, unprepared and incapable of providing the true leadership that the PGA Tour players deserved through this process. He mixed his ego with his ignorance. As a result of this, the PGA Tour is now essentially an asset of the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Well done Jay!”

Brandel Chamblee. He has been the most outspoken critic of LIV Golf and its benefactors. I salute Chamblee for the courage of his convictions but it turns out that PGA Tour leaders have a different value system, leaving Chamblee alone on an island…with only Eamon Lynch for company.

Every PGA Tour player who turned down the LIV money. How does Hideki Matsuyama feel today? He rejected an offer of more than a quarter-billion dollars. Rickie Fowler, winless since 2019, said no to $75 million. On and on it goes. They were all saluted for their principled stance, but now Monahan has said yes to the money he implored his players to walk away from! 

The European Ryder Cup team. Euro Tour CEO Keith Pelley took a hard line after the merger was announced, saying that the rule is still in force that a player must be a tour member to play in the Ryder Cup. Further, those who resigned their membership would have to pay the fines (over a million British pounds already) and serve their suspensions to be reinstated. That seems to slam the door on Sergio Garcia or Thomas Pieters helping to fortify an underdog Team Europe in Rome. At least the LIV alums will be able to play in the ‘25 Ryder Cup once the game is put back together.

White shoe law firms. The legal bills for the Tour vs. LIV lawsuit and countersuit were going to run into the tens of millions of dollars, if they haven’t already. Now that the legal wrangling is over, say a prayer for all the partners at Gibson Dunne; Baker McKenzie; and Quinn Emanual Urquhart & Sullivan. 

The major championships. Over the last year their importance and profile have gone through the roof as the only yardsticks left for evaluating how all the best players stack up. Now it’s back to business as usual.

Golf fans. Just when things had settled down a little and the major championship summer was in full swing, the ultimate thunderbolt hits. Now there will be months of endless recriminations and second-guessing and pontificating about the future of the game. Wait, that actually sounds kind of fun!

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29 thoughts on “Winners and Losers in the New PIF-Tour Alliance”

    1. Was Phil really right? He said the PGAT had all of this money that it was holding back from its players. It turns out it really doesn’t have that much.

  1. I can only hope that as a condition of the merger, steps have been taken to insure that golf fans will be spared the spectacle of a peacocking Ian Poulter. It was bad enough listening to his whining about “only trying to make a living.” (I mean have you checked the price of an oil change for a Ferrari recently?). He will now be completely insufferable.

  2. I agree with much of your analysis, but to say Phil was a visionary is a bit of a reach. If there was so much money in the PGA cofers that should have been distributed to players, then why was the PGA forced to merge today? The reality is, a big, bad (really bad), player entered the ring and blew everything up with cold, hard, cash. Cash that couldn’t be matched by the best run organization with the deepest pocketed sponsors. The same thing is happening in the Futbol world and, to some degree, F1. Phil won because he took $200mm from a questionable regime, not because he was right.

  3. This whole thing is very sad. Once more professional sports surrenders to the almighty dollar. Once more professional sports surrenders to the will and whims of the billionaire class. Once more professional sports shows its hypocrisy and total lack of values. Do the powers that be not understand how all this money just puts more distance between professional golf and the duffer who loves the game? A fan backlash is brewing throughout the business of sport. I’ll watch the majors, and I’ll follow the LPGA but the PGA/DP/LIV is now of no interest to me. None.

  4. Sorry, but I have to add another comment. After thinking about this “merger,” it is clear to me that it is not a merger after all. It is basically a hostile takeover of professional golf by the country of Saudi Arabia. Within 2 years, the PGA, LIV, and the DP tour will no longer exist. There will only be one professional golf entity (I’m not sure what it will be called) and it will be owed and operated by the Saudi government. They have the money and so they will have total control. I didn’t see this coming when LIV was founded, but clearly the the plan from the very beginning was to: 1) buy up the best golfers, 2) force the PGA into insolvency, 3) buy up the best lawyers, 4)sue the PGA, 5) wait for the PGA to agree to a “unity” plan, 6) sit by as the PGA members fire Monahan, 6) gain controlling interest in the PGA, and 7)consolidate the three tours into one tour. And just like that…Saudi Arabia will own men’s golf. Next on the chopping block: the LPGA.

  5. Pro golf has been ruined for me. What do they do if MBS wants the ball to go farther, or the hole to be larger, or the tournaments to be 36 holes? Monahan has strapped this grand game to a pure, greedy, manipulater. Whither Snead, Jones, Hogan, et al?

  6. Good analysis here Alan. Must say I agree with about all of it.

    Great use of the term “oil money.” The Saudis make their billions from petroleum, not violence (as detractors who call it “blood money” might imply). Not to judge Saudi society one way or the other, but let’s be honest about this source of this money. It comes from legitimate operations.

    “Sportswashing” is another misleading term journalists have used, especially re: the moral component regarding the Saudi’s motivation. The Saudis are not concerned with their reputation in the eyes of socially-conscious Western liberals. They see professional golf as an investment, something to diversify their portfolio away from purely oil, not as some exercise in rehabilitating their image to the world at large. That’s what the Brandels and Eamons never quite understood, but the Brysons and the DJs did. They couldn’t be shamed away from pursuing what was, at the end of the day, purely business.

    I am quite interested to see how much leeway there is for players given this new structure. As stated by Monahan, what will be formed is an umbrella organization that covers the major professional tours–PGA, European, LIV, and Asian–who are now in partnership. With past animosity and legal battles being dropped, it seems likely that (the top) players will become more like free agents, getting to choose which tournaments from which tours are best for their schedule. No longer will the PGA be able to tell Rory he has to play in x number of “designated” events. No longer will they ban Phil or Brooks if each chooses to play for huge purses in non-PGA Tour events. This quasi-global tour will be tiered, with some PGA events (Players, Memorial, etc.) being at the top and others (John Deere, Barracuda, etc.) being lower-purse vestigials drawing players outside the Top 100. This will allow players to play themselves up the ranks of the game, preserving the element of relegation and promotion within the sport that is essential to it.

    Lastly, it is time to once and for all ignore those who have mocked and belittled the likes of Mickelson and Norman yet see today’s news as anything less than vindication for them. You have been critical of each at times, but have rightly acknowledged where their arguments had merit. Norman effectively got his world tour idea underwritten by billionaires while making a handsome salary for 2 years of work. Mickelson forced the Tour to change its restrictive revenue distribution model and award more to the top players of the game, and his efforts have now changed the golf landscape for good. I predicted above this will allow golfers, at least those at the top, to be more like free-agents in how they choose their playing schedules.

    1. The ‘blood money’ tag comes from the fact their people are maltreated in general, women have little to no rights whatsoever, minorities are discriminated against at best and killed at worst, they have committed genocide in Yemen and influence across the Middle East to dissuade values that give their people and others freedoms.

      To say they are legitimate is hugely inaccurate and only demonstrates the sport washing that they are involved in works quicker on those willing to bend to their will or are sadly ignorant to what happens due to their actions. The list includes those players you listed, the idots and bots on Twitter and that moron Norman and numerous others, sadly.

    2. Learning lots here. Nice overviews by both of you guys.

      While it appears that the goal is for this to be a money making business deal by the guy in charge of this huge fund, one has to wonder just how much power is actually in this one individual’s hands.

      Sounds like he’s potentially as big a fan of golf as anybody, but questions about his “whims” changing sure seem legitimate. That much power concentrated in one place brings to mind the possibility of abuse of same – Putin, for example? He no doubt has amazing security, but still. What happens if the next “controller of the fund” isn’t a “golf nerd”? Wondering if there are ways to write in “safeguards” for such things.

      As far as folks “outside of” golf owning it, I haven’t seen a lot of mention of the TV contracts that seem to have outsize influence on *many* sports, and I suppose *that* even comes down to where that money comes from – the corporations that pay for the advertising. Maybe being less concentrated than the Saudi fund makes them a completely “different” kind of thing, but it’s still not just the PGA Tour, itself, that had all the resources.

      The “independent contractor” aspect of these amazingly talented professionals and all the work that goes into getting there and all the risks associated with it seems to me to be worth more than what the PGA Tour was willing to share for their part in the “show”. I *know* how hard golf is and can’t imagine holding up under the pressure on the back nine on Sundays. Wish I could write as well as you guys. 🙂

  7. Christopher Chapman

    I never thought the game of golf needed to grow. I’m not too interested in watching tournaments in Tibet or Saudi Arabia or wherever in the world the Saudis want to go. I don’t like the shotgun starts and I don’t like the loud music. I don’t care about the weird teams and who owns them. I’m sorry the PGA Tour threw in the towel. I think a new tour should start up.

  8. I think you are spot on in many regards, Alan. What I don’t agree with is Phil being a winner in this saga (other than getting the PIF to make an incredibly mistaken massive payment to him). To mimic the late NFL head coach Dennis Green, “He is who we thought he is.” The guy is at the very best an insufferable egomaniac who has to be one of the most reckless people I’ve ever known about. He has no self control and actually thinks his (and his agent’s) goofy spin after each terrible episode and unethical move (e.g., calling you and going off while you’re writing a book that would be published about him, stopping a moving ball during the U.S. Open (OMG), engaging in pure insider trading, getting Callaway to bail him out of gambling debts, and more) is working. Along with grossly overestimating the resources of the PGAT, he insisted that the PGAT should not own the rights to the images and video that they capture of him at their extreme expense to promote the tournaments and league. He tried to manipulate PGAT to extract more money based on knowledge he had of the PIF’s impending splurge on LIV and was stupid enough to tell you about it. I could go on… I sure hope he does not foist himself upon golf fans with all his self-aggrandizing ingenious insights and off-course expertise by conning a TV network to hire him or the PGA of America to let him captain the Ryder Cup team one day, but I suspect he’ll pull it off. That’s when I’ll be tapping out completely.

  9. As a golf fan I certainly don’t feel like a “winner”. I write this from Gamble Sands a day after a top 5 course experience. It seems that the bad guys won and the good guys lost. Not what golf is about. Count me out.

  10. Have lost all respect for the PGA.
    I’d like to see JM gone and then I’d like it if Phil is NOT allowed back on the tour. I think he’s a pitiful waste of talent.
    I’d also like to see every LIV player payback their LIV signing bonus to a 911 fund. EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR. Then ALL that money gets directed to the 911 families. Ohhh screw it….I do NOT want the shieks (Saudia Royals – ANY) involved in ANY golf going forward.
    F them!!!

  11. Yep,Phil is a singular visionary. Who could have possibly predicted greed and avarice winning the day in this country club civil war?
    Other than morbid curiosity, it surprised yesterday how little I found myself caring about any of these characters.

  12. Greg Norman is a winner like a broken clock is right twice a day by accident. His timing, tactics and execution on this topic have sucked for nearly 30 years. And my guess is that this so-called “deal” has very little to do with him.

  13. I think the PGA faithful are overlooking the fact that we all gain back sleazy post round shots of Paulina and Jena. A great day for televised golf moving forward.

  14. I think there is a big issue that Alan and other analysts are missing. It is likely that the Justice Department will challenge the merger, just as it would challenge a merger between ATT and Verizon. Unlike Major League Baseball, professional golf doesn’t have an exemption from antitrust law. However anyone feels about the merger, it is likely to be challenged as an anti-competitive combination. In my view, the case looks pretty strong.

  15. Wow Alan, are you so happy about all of this because of your book or do you really don‘t care where the money comes from? Well, your reaction was to be expected, your comments about LIV getting ever more postive over the last months. Maybe you can finally buddy up with Phil again, wouldn‘t that be nice?

  16. Monahan has a twisted view of golf fans and their take on LIV. A high majority do not like LIV. He has just decreased the PGATOUR viewing population including myself. Does he think we are a bunch of sadists who like getting knifed in the back?_

  17. Monahan has a twisted view of golf fans and their take on LIV. A high majority do not like LIV. He has just decreased the PGATOUR viewing population including myself. Does he think we are a bunch of sadists who like getting knifed in the back?_

  18. The loser here is the PGA Tour. Their unwillingness to consider change over the past several decades was their own undoing. Their answer was to lean on sponsors more, get more from the networks, more from the fans and keep up with the status quo while the bureaucrats (especially the commissioners) get rich and enjoy the power of their positions. They were brought several opportunities to bring outside money into the game and they shunned all of them. Wouldn’t even listen to most of them. Most organizations stuck in the status quo end up in bad positions.

  19. Whether, for marketing purposes, they maintain a separate tour called the “PGA Tour,” or eventually merge into one tour with LIV, the bottom line is simply that the Saudi PIF just purchased the PGA Tour in a hostile takeover … LIV golf was a terrible consumer product, for a number of reasons, that the public was uninterested in attending, or viewing on television – if it had been a traditional for-profit business venture, it would have withered away … but the Saudi PIF is not a traditional business venture – it has almost unlimited financial resources, and it operates with a distinct political agenda (see its $2 billion “investment” in Jared Kushner).

    1. Monahan caved because the PGA, while it has a lot of money, could not compete with the wealth of the Saudi’s in a long, expensive legal battle. I am a poor 76 year old senior citizen, but I actually feel sorry for the big stars who stayed with the PGA and didn’t take the blood money; they got screwed.

      In his day, Phil Mickelson was probably the most popular golfer out there, the crowds just loved him. But now, I have lost total respect for him. His taunting is an embarrassment. I guess he needed to pay those gambling debts off. I hope he gets booed off the course in the future.

      We have to remember golf is just a game, but it seems that the morals of this world are no longer valid and everybody loses.

  20. “The press conference bitchiness and social media daggers will now (mostly) cease”

    But enough about the media 😉

  21. Mr Monahan states that whatever comments he made were based upon what he knew at the time of making such comments. This he says justifies his about face. Well, what Mr Monahan is actually saying is that when he made his earlier comments dishing LIV and it’s involvement with Saudi money, he believed that ethical and moral choices trumped the raw pursuit of money, greed and selfishness. That what he now subsequently realises is that such facts and beliefs are not correct. That what he now, subsequently knows, is that the pursuit of the largest financial return is in fact more important than maintaining an ethical and moral stance, even if it means throwing those who supported your earlier position and comments under the bus.
    For what I had perceived to be a hobby and sport that held to a more gentlemanly and ethical base, I am saddened to see that it to now too has fallen for the truth. Namely that keeping your word, maintaining integrity and ethical standards is in fact secondary to need to maximise financial returns.
    It doesn’t matter how you cut and dice this fiasco, Mr Monahan is a man of low principles and ethical and moral standards. For the sake of maintaining some level of decorum and decency in this great sport of golf, he should resign and if not, shown the door.
    A very sad day for golf. A great day for greed and selfishness.

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