Weekly Column: Would the PGA Tour and LIV Golf Series Consider Joining Forces?

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the challenges and opportunities for the PGA Tour and new LIV Golf Series.  

You can read the full column below.

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Maybe the most outlandish idea is the right one. One thing is certain, the dispute between the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf Series as relates to top professional golfer defections to LIV Golf from the PGA, the new golf tour that offers larger winnings and new tournaments, team play, and payments to golfers that act as salaries or bonuses to leave the PGA Tour, has served noticed on the golfing world that there is potentially a new proverbial league in town. The question is, what will become of LIV Golf if the PGA Tour changes its payments and schedule in response?

For a sports league to succeed, particularly an upstart league trying to challenge the status quo, three things are essential. First, financial capital to get started and weather the storms. Second, the ability to attract the best players for the long run. Third, a way to view live sports through a widely distributed broadcast, radio, and/or streaming options. For LIV Golf, the upstart sports league currently meets all three of the aforementioned requirements.

LIV Golf has financial backing—so much so that the PGA Tour has decided to increase its purse sizes, add more no-cut tournaments, and go back to a calendar-year schedule in 2024 to compete. LIV Golf has attracted some of the top golfers in the world including Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, and Dustin Johnson with $100+ million dollar signing bonuses. LIV Golf offers team competition as well. LIV Golf is also considering mixed male/female golf tournaments via the LPGA. LIV Golf does not have a television broadcast partner, but matches can be watched on YouTube, the LIV website, and on Facebook for free.

On the course and in the boardroom, LIV Golf has been winning some important battles. Where the PGA Tour wants to ban golfers that have joined LIV Golf, the British Open recently announced that LIV Golf golfers would be able to compete. The PGA Tour arguably has the most control over the PGA Championship tournament, its namesake, and one of the four Majors every year along with the Masters at Augusta in Georgia, the U.S. Open, and the British Open at St. Andrews in Scotland, but with two of the three Majors showing openness to the Greg Norman-led and Saudi Arabian-backed league (through their Public Investment Fund) toward accepting former PGA golfers, a successful future could be had.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has stated that the Tour cannot compete in an arms race for dollars to keep golfers away from the LIV Golf Series. However, is competition the answer? Is collaboration something to consider? History may be a lesson.

In every example of the big four professional sports leagues in America, each league started with one league and eventually competed and combined multiple leagues into a larger one. Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL) all experienced upstart challengers before combining into the professional sports leagues they are today. For example, the National League and the upstart American League for MLB, American Football League and National Football League (now conferences) in the NFL, National Basketball Association and American Basketball Association form the NBA, and finally, the NHL, which were once competing leagues called the National Hockey League, Pacific Coast Hockey Association, and Western Canada Hockey League. Of course, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are not traditional team sports leagues so that aspect has to be considered in the comparison.

Again, maybe the question is not how to compete, but how to collaborate or compliment, like the potential of the USFL and XFL to the NFL—-although the USFL and XFL have failed on multiple occasions in the past trying to stand on their own. Combining the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has its own concerns, arguably major, in terms of control, ownership, and international politics related to Saudi Arabia as a political government. As outlandish as the idea is of having the PGA Tour and LIVE Golf combine forces or collaborate, or co-exist, money talks and makes people walk. The more golfers that walk from the PGA Tour to the LIV Golf Series, particularly the younger generation, the more pressure will exist for the PGA Tour and Commissioner Jay Monahan to compete or consider a far different arrangement to survive, or better yet thrive.

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About Jeremy M. Evans:  

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele and is licensed to practice law in California.