How will the PGA and LIV merger affect the LPGA?

June 7, 2023
The move marks the largest win yet for Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing campaign and will likely change the sport as we know it.
Sports BusinessGolf
SOURCE: KEYUR KHAMAR/PGA TOUR VIA GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: KEYUR KHAMAR/PGA TOUR VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The PGA is taking a huge mulligan. Despite stating it wouldn’t join forces with rival LIV Golf, the men’s golf tour — along with Europe’s DP World Tour — did exactly that yesterday. The move marks the largest win yet for Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing campaign and will likely change the sport as we know it.

The details: All three tours will stick to their original 2023 schedules, but their commercial interests will merge ASAP. The Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund that backs LIV, will hold a minority stake in the new organization and plans to inject billions into the group project.

  • That said, the PIF will be a minority investor with a major say, including the right to first refusal for any investments the combined venture wants to make. So who’s really in charge?

The next steps: Though the agreement ends the legal battle between the PGA and LIV, it won’t stop the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust investigation into the PGA. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and British and European regulators may also review the deal, while the DOJ — and broadcast partners — will examine the merger’s structure.

The women’s golf angle: LIV has teased a potential women’s tour, and the PGA merger signals the Saudi-backed operation’s ability to strike a deal with the LPGA. The PIF also bankrolls several Ladies European Tour events, and LPGA head Mollie Marcoux Samaan already said she’d take a meeting with LIV.

  • This merger raises questions like: Can the LPGA resist Saudi investment if the financially superior PGA couldn’t? Will the earned backlash matter to men’s and women’s golf sponsors? Only time will tell.