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June 11, 2023

Poll finds harsh reactions to PGA Tour/LIV deal

By Dan Vukelich, Alabama Golf News Online Editor

For many, merger leaves a bad taste

Fifty-eight percent of sports thought leaders polled by Golf Power Poll about the PGA Tour/LIV Golf merger expressed disappointment in the deal announced last week.

Those polled were about evenly split on whether the proposed merger of the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour would be good for the game – with 38 percent saying yes, 35 percent saying no and 28 percent saying it was neither good nor bad..

Tellingly, 63 percent of those responding to the poll believe the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the Saudi Arabian government arm that financed the creation of LIV Golf, was the biggest winner. Only 6 percent thought the PGA Tour was the winner, while the same percentage thought Phil Mickelson was the biggest winner. Only about 15 percent thought golf fans came out on top.

The polling company, Power Poll, runs periodic opinion surveys across multiple markets in the U.S. It was founded in 2019 as a civic engagement platform to bring together leaders across business, civic, media and political industries. “We survey, hold conversations with, and engage our members to understand their collective positions, opinions, and thought leadership on critical issues,” it says on its website. 

The company’s poll findings generally track with broader public sentiment following the June 6 announcement that after more than a year of litigation, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour would merge with LIV Golf, and that the Saudi backers of LIV Golf would partner with The PGA Tour in a new Saudi-financed for-profit venture aimed at uniting professional golf worldwide.

In the PGA Tour/LIV Golf poll, when asked who the biggest losers were in the merger, respondents overwhelmingly identified PGA Tour players who stayed loyal to the Tour (43 percent), followed by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan (20 percent) and LIV CEO Greg Norman (18 percent). In Fact, Norman was not told of the merger befoe it was announced.

“PGA Tour players had heated words for commissioner Jay Monahan for making a deal behind their backs. LIV Golf players have been quick to declare victory. A 9/11 families group angrily called the tour ‘paid shills’ for Saudi sportswashing,” wrote Power Poll correspondent Scott Michaux in an article on the company’s website.

Disappointment in the merger was the reaction of 58 percent of respondents, while only 13 percent were pleased. Fifteen percent expressed relief the PGA Tour/LIV Golf feud would end, while 13 percent said they didn’t know.

Harsh words for the merger

Respondents who expressed an opinion about the merger didn’t hold back.

“Words like ‘betrayal,’ ‘hypocrite’ and ‘sell-out’ have generated intense feelings that overshadow the deal’s intent to unify and heal the rift in the professional game. Nobody is quite sure how (or even if) it will all coalesce in the end, but many cautiously hope for the best,” Michaux wrote.

Michaux quoted some of the respondents who added comments to the online poll they were sent.

Architecture author and journalist Bradley Klein, Michaux wrote,  thinks the agreement will “seriously hamper the operational structure and support base for local (PGA Tour) events, undercut charitable efforts, and further disconnect elite professional golf from the real, everyday business of the game as it is actually played. The prize money will be obscene and the moral rot unmistakable.”

Dan Shepherd, owner of Dan Shepherd Public Relations, responded that he is more disgusted than disappointed.

“The hypocrisy of filing a countersuit against the LIV and having the commissioner pound the proverbial table while objecting vehemently to Saudi’s using the game for sports washing – then merging with LIV – is sickening. And grossly transparent,” he said.

“This never was and never will be about ‘growing the game.’ It’s about ‘growing the money,’” said Joe Logan, co-founder of MyPhillyGolf.com and a former Philadelphia Inquirer golf writer.

Michaux wrote: “Count Frances Trimble, historian for the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, among the disappointed: ‘Ben Hogan is spinning inn his grave.'”

 The PGA Tour/LIV Golf poll was sent to 458 people and 144 responded, including the two principals of Alabama Golf News.

Power Poll states on its website its polls are not scientific surveys, but that their results “afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.”

Dan Vukelich is the online editor of Alabama Golf News. Reach him at dan@alabamagolfnews.com.

Have a story idea or a news item to report? Email gregg@alabamagolfnews.com

Featured image courtesy of Power Poll

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