There’s no way around it: the news that broke this week about the merger of the PGA Tour and PIF shook the golf world to its core. Though the headlines are all about the PGA Tour and LIV Golf coming together, the more accurate description involves the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and the PIF (the money behind LIV Golf) actually coming under a singular entity. At the end of the day, however, the group dynamic on the course will 100% come down to PGA Tour players and LIV Golf players figuring out what life after a merger will look like.
Any other week, that wouldn’t be completely necessary to think about, but with less than a week before the next major, this huge announcement has come right in the midst of professional golf’s biggest season and for better or for worse, the PGA Tour guys and the LIV Golf guys are all going to be together again in a very different social dynamic than before.
While it may not actually be the opinion of everyone on the PGA Tour, the overriding assumption is that those who stayed and didn’t accept the “blood money” of the PIF-backed LIV Golf tour have maintained a sort of moral high ground over the past year. Again, I don’t know that this is the actual feeling or opinion of everyone on the PGA Tour, but that is the narrative that has been assigned for most of the players.
But now that the PGA Tour is looking to take advantage of the same source of funding if all of these merger talks actually make it through all of the regulatory layers necessary for it to happen, the dynamic between PGA Tour players and LIV Golf players is in a position to shift quite abruptly.
Now, that dynamic is far less about perceived righteousness and actually puts some of the bragging rights back into the hands of those that took the money to leave. Think about it: after a year of being ran through the mud for taking a payday, LIV Golf players like Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, and Dustin Johnson look to be back on the PGA Tour next year no worse for wear and far, far more wealthy than they were before.
And at the same time, those who were loyal to the PGA Tour and those with moral opposition to LIV Golf are now in the strange position of having to eat crow a bit. How would you feel if you stood up for an organization for the past year, declined a big payday, and then had that same organization bow to the exact same financial benefactor that was supposed to be the enemy. I imagine you’d feel cheated, betrayed, and a bit out of sorts if the morality you’ve been standing on basically eroded beneath you.
And that’s the dynamic players will face next week at the US Open. Those who have been outspoken about LIV Golf and the PIF that backs it are now in an incredibly awkward position as the PGA Tour could likely be in the same moral dilemma as LIV Golf is within a few months. And all those players who opposed LIV have to show for their loyalty is what looks like a bit of betrayal, a missed payday, and now belonging to an organization that is less concerned with the moral issues surrounding LIV Golf than it used to be.
With all of that swirling, the US Open is set to descend on the Los Angeles Country Club with both PGA Tour and LIV Golf players combining together in the first combo event since the bombshell announcement. It’s safe to say it’s going to be awkward. But it is also the beginning – possibly – of the new normal we should expect going into next season. There will likely be much that will change in the world of professional golf by this time next year, and in the end the melding of personalities will end up only as a small part of it. But this much is certain: it’ll be interesting to watch it all play out next week.