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tara sullivan

LIV-PGA merger raises many questions, but one answer is clear: Money wins again

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is singing a much different tune than he was when he invoked 9/11 victims to disparage the Saudi-backed LIV enterprise.Richard Heathcote/Getty

Questions. So many questions.

But first, an answer.

The Tuesday merger that rocked the golf world leaves countless unanswered questions, starting with how the stunning merger of the PGA, DP World, and LIV tours came together after a year of abject rancor and acrimony. Even more, how it happened in such secrecy, leaving top PGA players themselves expressing shock and surprise.

Yet for all the questions that linger in this hazy, hypocritical air, the news did deliver one resounding, inarguable, unequivocal answer: It’s all about making money.

It’s about taking money, even if it comes from a source previously repudiated by PGA power brokers pretending to stand on the moral high ground. It’s about admitting that taking the money is easier than fighting a fight, about exposing PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s previous attempt to cast moral aspersions on the sportswashing efforts of the Saudi Arabian regime as nothing more than a delay tactic until this eventual sellout.

Who can forget Monahan this time last year, when he leaned on the words of the families of 9/11 victims, using their heartfelt criticism of LIV in his own attempt to shame the golfers who had already defected to the renegade tour.


“I would ask any player that left or any player that would ever consider leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?’ ” Monahan said during a Golf Channel interview.

He said that after referencing two families he knows personally who “lost loved ones,” and his “heart,” he said, “goes out to them.”

What does he say now?

In opening his arms to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and opening the coffers of the PGA and DP World tours, Monahan’s actions run counter to all of those words, as well as laying insult to everything loyalists like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas did in standing up for the tradition of the PGA Tour.


Turns out it’s easier to combine forces and share the money than to remain adversaries and pay the lawyers. No surprise. But no joy either.

Now come the questions.

A few off the top start with what the logistics of this new venture will look like, as in who plays where among the PGA, DP World, and LIV tours. They go on from there. There’s the mystery of Greg Norman, whose name is so noticeably absent from all the official announcements Tuesday. The curiosity about existing lucrative LIV contracts and whether their terms will change under the new system. The possibility of the convoluted LIV team play infecting PGA formats.

Is there going to be a pathway for PGA defectors to return to their old home? Will all US and European golfers be eligible for the Ryder Cup? Is everyone getting world ranking points? Are the majors going to be affected? What happens to all the local non-major tournaments and their title sponsors, events that have long been the lifeblood of fan interest in the sport, supporting local economies and bringing fans closer to the game.

How much will Phil Mickelson gloat?

Time will provide those many answers, rooted as generally as they are in logistics and bylaws. Harder to assuage will be the emotions of the current PGA players, those who feel blindsided by the stunning news, those who chose not to leave the tour when the money was dangled in front of their noses, those who stood up for Monahan and the history of a tour they believed had their backs too.


Tuesday was a big day for Phil Mickelson and LIV Golf.Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

What changed? How does Monahan ever justify this complete flip-flop?

As major winner Collin Moikawa tweeted Tuesday, “I love finding out morning news on Twitter,” followed with, “And everyone thought yesterday was the longest day in golf,” a sentiment shared by many other golfers who were left completely out of the loop of what is supposedly a player-led organization.

Monahan will have to sell them on the new, rosy vision he was pitching through news releases and interviews Tuesday, when he went into full hyperbolic cheerleader mode.

“This is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” he declared in a release with a combined dateline of New York, Florida, and Riyadh. “This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA Tour’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV — including the team golf concept — to create an organization that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans.

“Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we’ve always made — to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game’s future.”


All that was missing were a few exclamation points and smiley-face emojis, or at least one with a kiss-face for his PIF counterpart Yasir Al-Rumayyan, whom Monahan applauded “for his vision and collaborative and forward-thinking approach that is not just a solution to the rift in our game, but also a commitment to taking it to new heights. This will engender a new era in global golf, for the better.”

Last fall, at a tournament in East Lake, Monahan was asked about his hard-line stance against any pathway back from LIV to the PGA Tour for players who took the money and ran.

“They’ve joined the LIV Golf Series and they’ve made that commitment,” he said back then. “For most of them, they’ve made multiyear commitments. As I’ve been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect their choice, but they’ve made it. We’ve made ours. We’re going to continue to focus on the things that we control and get stronger and stronger.”

Stronger and stronger? Make that richer and richer. There, fixed it for you.

Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her @Globe_Tara.