The future of golf is uncertain despite the proposed merger betweenthe PGA Tour and the LIV

On 6 June, the PGA Tour and LIV announced their merger. More than a month after this unexpected news, the future of golf remains uncertain.

As part of the merger, the PGA Tour would remain a not-for-profit organisation with full control over the running of its tournaments, but its commercial rights would be held by a for-profit organisation, which would also own LIV.

Many details still need to be worked out, and negotiations are expected to continue at least until the end of the year. The agreement reached so far is only a framework and not a final agreement, so the situation could still be very different in the future.

As a result, LIV has dropped its lawsuit against the PGA Tour, and the PGA Tour has dropped its legal counterattack.

Initially, 11 golfers who had previously switched from the PGA Tour to LIV sued the PGA, claiming that it was acting as a monopsony and unfairly using its influence over them by suspending their membership.

The PGA Tour eventually counter-attacked, claiming tortious interference with players’ contracts. The LIV then joined the lawsuit, but on 16 June the two golf organisations officially dropped their proceedings against each other.

It is not yet known what impact this will have on the Ryder Cup, which starts in Rome in September.

The European Tour, known as the DP World Tour after its main sponsor, has suspended the players who took part in a LIV tournament in London. These players, including Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, subsequently left the organisation.

To represent Europe at the Ryder Cup, however, players must be members of the DP World Tour, which also means that LIV players are currently unable to take part in the tournament. With the potential merger, that could change, and Ian Poulter was optimistic about his chances of taking part. Although, as things stand, it seems unlikely.

On the other hand, American players could be eligible no matter what. The 12-player American team will be made up of 6 players who qualify automatically on the basis of the points they have accumulated, and 6 other players chosen by captain Zach Johnson.

As they are still members of the PGA, LIV players can still earn points to qualify for the Majors and can be selected by Johnson. Brooks Koepka, in particular, deserves to be picked in the US team after winning the PGA this year. 

There is also the question of what the tournaments will look like in the future, as the PGA Tour and LIV tournaments differ in a number of ways.

Traditionally, PGA tournaments are played over four rounds of 18 holes. Players are eliminated after two rounds: any player whose score is lower than that of the 65th player is eliminated and wins no money (tied players manage to qualify).

LIV tournaments are played over three rounds, with 54 holes instead of 72. This is the reason for its name: LIV means 54 in Roman numerals. There is no elimination phase, which means that every player wins money.

LIV tournaments also have a team component, which is extremely rare on the PGA Tour. 12 captains choose three team-mates each week, and the lowest two scores from the first two rounds of the four players count towards their team score.

At the end of the eight-week season, a four-day, four-round, knockout team tournament is held.

It is highly unlikely that the classic PGA Tour format will be changed or abandoned as a result of the merger. Similarly, it is unlikely that the LIV formats will disappear altogether. In fact, the PGA Tour is already in the process of scrapping the elimination phase from some tournaments from 2024 onwards, but this is one of the main issues that needs to be discussed in more detail during the merger negotiations.

There will also be many legal issues to deal with on the financial side. The players who have joined LIV have been offered a financial guarantee for their membership and participation, unlike the PGA Tour where players who do not pass the elimination phase of tournaments do not earn any money.

If the merger is finalised, it will be a question of deciding whether the LIV players receive what they were promised and whether the PGA Tour players will be compensated.

Overall, one thing is clear: many decisions still need to be taken to shape the future of professional golf.