'This is a takeover' - PGA Tour merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf

'When you look at the power they have with that Public Investment Fund, in 10 years' time where will global sport be?'
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.14 6 Jun 2023

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'This is a takeover' - PGA Tou...

'This is a takeover' - PGA Tour merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.14 6 Jun 2023

Share this article

A PGA Tour merger with its Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf is 'a takeover'.

That's according to Kieran Cunningham, Chief Sports Writer with the Irish Daily Star, who was speaking after the two tours signed an agreement that would combine the PGA Tour and LIV Golf's commercial businesses and rights into a new, yet-to-be-named for-profit company.

The announcement comes after a year of unprecedented disruption in the men's professional game following the launch of the LIV Golf circuit.


The agreement includes the DP World Tour, also known as the European PGA Tour.

The rival circuit launched in 2022 and has lured a number of big-name players from the PGA Tour - including Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson, former world number one Dustin Johnson and reigning PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka.

A golfer swinging a club. A golfer swinging a club. Picture by: PhotoEdit / Alamy Stock Photo

The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, and critics have accused it of being a vehicle for the country to attempt to improve its reputation in the face of criticism of its human rights record.

As part of the deal, the sides are dropping all lawsuits against each other.

It is unclear what form the LIV Golf League would take in 2024.

Mr Cunningham told The Hard Shoulder no one saw this coming.

"It's taken both the golf and the wider sporting world completely by surprise," he said.

"They've been at loggerheads for a year, since the first LIV golf event... in June of last year.

"So effectively it's only taken 12 months for LIV - which effectively is the Saudi powers that be - to take over golf.

"I know it's being painted as a merger, but I think this is a takeover".

'Washing Saudi's reputation'

Quoting a tweet from US Senator Chris Murphy, Mr Cunningham said this is "down to money."

"The Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia is worth an astonishing $620 billion.

"That's being used to wash Saudi's reputation through sport," he claimed.

Mr Cunningham said this is the latest move by Saudi Arabia in the sports field.

"They're making major moves in boxing; there's a lot of major fights being lined up in boxing over the next year," he said.

"They're becoming powerbrokers in football, to a large extent, with a lot of clubs coming under Saudi ownership including Newcastle United.

"This is the biggest move yet because it comes so quickly.

"A lot of sports will now look at this, and look at the money, and rather than see it as a warning they will look at it as an opportunity".

'Where will global sport be?'

Mr Cunningham said more questions need to be asked.

"It does raise serious questions for sport across the board, how much do they want to get in bed with Saudi?" he said.

"Just one example: a woman called Salma al-Shehab - she was sentenced to 34 years because of tweets and retweets [on] human rights issues - including tweets on women's rights to drive cars.

"This is the kind of country you're dealing with.

"People who defend Saudi's involvement in sport do point out that... Irish politicians deal with Saudi, a lot of Irish businesses do - but maybe that should be questioned more as well.

"When you look at the power they have with that Public Investment Fund, with $620 billion, in 10 years' time where will global sport be?" he added.

Listen back here:

Additional reporting: IRN

Main image: Golfers on the Ponte Vedra course in Florida during practice day at the PGA Tour in May 2012. Picture by: isogood / Alamy Stock Photo

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Brooks Koepka Dp World Tour Dustin Johnson European PGA Tour Jay Monahan Kieran Cunningham LIV Golf Newcastle United PGA Tour Phil Mickelson Public Investment Fund Salma Al-Shehab Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund Senator Chris Murphy The Hard Shoulder

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