Shock merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is at risk of collapse

Shock merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is at risk of collapse as Saudi defectors Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter both warn of another huge exodus of big-name golfers to the breakaway circuit

  • Plans were revealed for a merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf in June
  • This was a huge shock following the civil war within the sport after LIV’s launch 
  • Reports state the merger could collapse, while more players may defect to LIV

The proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf could reportedly be at risk of collapse, while several stars of the sport have been tipped to move to the controversial breakaway circuit.

A bitter civil war broke out within golf last year after the Saudi-backed series was launched and prized away many major big-name stars from the PGA Tour.

However, in June of this year, there was the shock announcement of plans for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to merge, with those discussions still currently ongoing.

Within the ‘framework agreement’ between the parties at the time, there was a clause that while a deal was being discussed, LIV would not attempt to bring in any more stars from their rival tour.

However, that clause was scrapped when the US Department of Justice expressed concerns over the anti-competitive nature of it, meaning LIV could still add to its group of players which includes the likes of Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau.

The proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf could be at risk of collapsing

After a bitter civil war broke out within golf following the launch of LIV, it was announced in June the Saudi-backed circuit and PGA Tour would merge (pictured – PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan)

And Mickelson – a six-time major winner – believes that despite ongoing discussions between the tours, there will be another huge exodus of star golfers to the breakaway circuit.

‘LIV needs to keep evolving,’ Mickelson told The Telegraph. ‘But we have only been around a year and a half and look at the quality of players that we have already. 

‘And that’s going to continue to improve next year and it’s going to continue to improve the following year.’

‘Do I think that (more players will jump ship to LIV)? No. I know that’s going to happen. When players look at LIV, they are wanting to be a part of it. 

‘Everybody here is happy and enjoying what we are doing and enjoying the team aspect of it and the camaraderie and all the benefits that come with playing this tour.’

The American went onto explain how he has even been speaking to various colleagues in the sport who have expressed an interest in a move.

He added: ‘The reality is, I’ve been fielding calls, as we all have, from players who are free agents to PGA Tour players who want to come over. 

‘So the question is how many spots are available? There’s a lot more players that want to come than there are spots.

‘I think those merger talks (between the PGA Tour and LIV) kind of opens the door for that.’

Poulter, who also defected to LIV last year, echoed Mickelson’s calls and said it made sense for players to want to join the breakaway circuit.

‘There will be a great deal of interest,’ he said. ‘I am not going to give any names, but we’ve been contacted about players wanting to join.

‘And that’s no surprise. Think about it, they’ll probably get fined, but if a player takes that chance, pays say $50,000 (£41,268) or whatever, then he makes it into the top three then he will earn minimum $1.75 million (£1.44m)  in 14 events in 2024. That’s minimum. Even if they shoot level 80s every week. 

‘It’s $20m (£16.5m) purses and then the prizes from the team events on top and you’re playing against the likes of Brooks, DJ, Cam, Talor [Gooch] every week? If you’re on the DP World Tour then you’d be mad not to back yourself and have a go. It’s a different level.’

Tiger Woods (left) and Rory McIlroy (right) rejected overtures to join the LIV Golf series

But Phil Mickelson (left) and Ian Poulter (right) said more stars are likely to defect and join LIV

Reports in the Telegraph go onto state that the chances of the merger potentially collapsing are likely to come to a head when LIV’s qualifying event for 2024 takes place in December, which is the same time as the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Any member on the PGA Tour that wants to defect would therefore be at risk of punishment from the governing body if they took part in the qualifying event, which is especially pertinent given the various legal battles over the past 18 months.

For example, during LIV’s inaugural event in June 2022, all those players who appeared without permission were handed £100,000 fines and one-tournament bans. 

It remains to be seen whether negotiations between the rival tours can be concluded in time for the December 31 deadline, while reports that US billionaire investors are preparing to back the PGA Tour means there could yet be an ultimate breakdown in the relationship between the parties.

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