On Jun. 6, live on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” these two sat side-by-side and announced that the PGA Tour had aligned itself with the PIF going forward. Through a new entity yet to be named, the tour now has access to the PIF’s limitless supply of capital, estimated to have more than $600 billion in assets.
Yet, this decision ends golf’s great schism—the divide between the PGA and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which has divided the men’s professional game for the past two years.
So let’s look at the winners and losers from this monumental event, which will make people’s heads spin for some time.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund
More than seven years ago, Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, unveiled “Vision 2030,” a plan “to drive Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation through active, long-term investments and high standards of governance and transparency.”
Through this vision, Salman hoped to diversify the Saudi economy through non-oil-related ventures. He also wanted to bring Saudi Arabia to new heights.
Quickly after the announcement of Vision 2030, the PIF invested $3.5 billion into Uber, per the New York Times.
The PIF then turned its attention to sports, hoping to invest billions into different leagues and teams worldwide. Since then, PIF has poured countless sums of money into soccer, formula one racing, and golf—three sports that are played all around the globe.
The Saudis surely made their mark in professional golf, investing almost $1 billion into LIV Golf, the league that plucked many of the PGA Tour’s top stars.
Now, the PIF has aligned itself with the PGA Tour, the most powerful golfing circuit in the world, which partners with some of the world’s largest corporations. Through this, the Saudi Arabian government can invest in and influence the tour while furthering relationships with Fortune 500 companies.
This is all a part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the Saudi economy while also bringing the Saudi Arabian Kingdom to new heights on the global stage.
Saudi Arabia has never had more power, making them the biggest winner. Their endless supply of capital sadly speaks louder than the human rights abuses within its borders.
Throughout 2022, Phil Mickelson faced tremendous backlash and drew the ire of many following the comments he made to author Alan Shipnuck.
“They execute people for being gay over there,” Mickelson told Shipnuck in early 2022. “They are scary motherf***ers to get involved with. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Immediately after these comments went public, Mickelson secluded himself, skipped out on the 2022 Masters, missed out on defending the 2022 PGA Championship, and went rogue.
He emerged the week before the 2022 U.S. Open, where he played in the inaugural LIV Golf event outside London.
Since then, Mickelson has led the LIV Golf parade, received millions from the PIF, and used Twitter combatively to discuss his thoughts on the professional game of golf.
In the end, Mickelson looks like he was right all along. He withstood countless accusations and an exile, but he got his cake and got to eat it too. Plus, the PGA Tour now has access to more money than it has ever seen, which will help professional golfers across the world.
The Game of Golf
For the past two years, the game of golf has been divided. Two separate tours fielded events with strong fields, taking place concurrently.
That all changes with the PGA partnering with PIF and forming an entity overseeing the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. LIV Golf reportedly becomes a thing of the past.
The world’s top players will return to a single circuit, where the best golfers can play together in a single event.
Plus, with the tremendous amount of assets available to the PGA through PIF, professional golf across the globe should reap the rewards of having billions in the bank. That includes the LPGA, Korn Ferry Tour, and mini-tours worldwide.
“I agree that this is good for the game of golf,” Jack Nicklaus said Tuesday following the announcement. “I am certainly interested in seeing the details. [Monahan] indicated that this all will happen in 2024, so very soon, the proof will be in the pudding. Whatever is best for the game of golf enjoys my full support.”
In competing against the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, the PGA changed its schedule, increased purse sizes at tournaments, and worked with its corporate partners to obtain more capital.
However, the PGA Tour’s capital partners began to grow wary of the game’s divide, which led to Monahan striking a deal with PIF to secure the financial future of men’s professional golf.
“Whether you like it or not, the PIF was going to keep spending the money on golf,” Rory McIlroy admitted. “At least the PGA Tour now controls how that money is spent. So, you know, if you’re thinking about one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have them as a partner or an enemy? At the end of the day, money talks, and you would rather have them as a partner.”
One year ago, Jay Monahan, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, asked if PGA Tour members ever had to apologize for playing on the PGA Tour.
Now, he should be the one apologizing.
He castigated the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league, went behind everyone’s back, struck a deal with PIF, and now earns the distinction of golf’s biggest hypocrite.
Monahan believes that this new alignment will create more opportunities for players worldwide. He also knows that golf is divided no more.
But Monahan failed to keep his players in the loop. Given that the PGA Tour is supposed to be run by the players themselves, he angered numerous golfers. The players-only meeting before the RBC Canadian Open was “heated,” plenty of players expressed their disdain for Monahan and what he had done.
This deal may be good for the game in the long-term, but not for Monahan, who now receives tons of criticism, including from the 9/11 Families United.
McIlroy has defended the tour for the past year, stood up for his beliefs, and castigated LIV Golf.
“I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for a hundred years,” McIlroy said before the 2022 U.S. Open. “Money is great, but I’ve never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game and want to play against the best in the world.”
Since those comments were made, LIV Golf has grown exponentially.
As for McIlroy, he continued as the face of the PGA Tour. He worked to improve the tour with Tiger Woods and other top players in August 2022. He also continued to support Monahan and anything related to the PGA Tour.
Today, McIlroy admitted he feels like the “sacrificial lamb.”
“All I’ve tried to do is protect what the PGA TOUR is and what the PGA TOUR stands for,” McIlroy said ahead of the RBC Canadian Open. “I’ve come to terms with it. I see what’s happened in other sports. I see what’s happened in other businesses. And, honestly, I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that this is, you know, this is what’s going to happen.”
Monahan failed to keep his tour’s most popular player in the loop. McIlroy heard about the news just hours before CNBC’s bombshell broadcast.
He did nothing wrong throughout this entire schism, but McIlroy lost to money, which remains undefeated.
Before the PGA and PIF formed a new entity, the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and the Open Championship were the only tournaments allowing both PGA and LIV players to compete.
For just four weeks a year, the golfing world could see their favorite players—regardless of what tour they played on—compete in the same field on world-class courses.
Consequently, the four majors became indirectly elevated and must-watch television since the PGA-LIV tension snaked its way into golf’s Mount Rushmore of events.
Now, the world’s best players can play together at the same events on the same tour, bringing the majors back down to Earth.
The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and the Open Championship will still stand tall above the rest as the most prestigious events in golf. Still, they will not be as exclusive as they were before Jun. 6, 2023—the day that changed professional golf forever.