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July 13, 2023

LIV Golf-PGA Tour deal: Carl Icahn would have been proud

By Dan Vukelich, Alabama Golf News Online Editor (Opinion)
LIV Golf and PGA Tour merger

It was never about LIV Golf being a competitor

Let’s just call it what it is: The LIV Golf and PGA Tour thing was a hostile corporate takeover, pure and simple.

They’re calling it a merger or maybe a partnership, but it was a takeover of the PGA Tour by a hostile, well-funded outside group intent on muscling its way into golf by poaching some of the biggest names in the game.

It’s fundamentally no different than the playbook employed for decades by notorious Wall Street corporate raider Carl Icahn: Start buying up stock until the target has no choice but to deal with you.

LIV positioned itself as a competitor, but that argument was paper thin. The LIV concept of four-man teams playing 54 holes was hardly a viable sports-entertainment competitor to the PGA Tour – as evidenced by LIV’s difficulty in finding a credible broadcast partner.

The Saudis’ use of Greg Norman as their stooge was ingenious. His animus for the PGA Tour was well known. But his claim that LIV Golf was ever a credible competitor to the PGA Tour was laughable.

The insane money thrown at the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and soon-to-be has-been Phil Mickelson was the real competition. Not the idea of “Golf but Louder.” Or teams with names like Crushers or Fireball or Majestiks.

Nick Faldo had it right when he ridiculed the LIV concept of team play as four guys coming together after the round to ask, “What did you shoot?”

Even the LIV logo has the look of something thrown together by a design team uncertain of what and for whom they were designing it. Even if you pigeon-hole him as an unabashed PGA Tour booster, which he certainly is, you can hear the truth in Rory McIlroy’s recent statement: “If LIV Golf was the last place to play golf on Earth, I would retire. That’s how I feel about it.”

Unlike the NFL or Major League Baseball, two good-old-boy rich guys’ clubs that have erected strong barriers to unsavory outsiders (think Donald Trump’s fruitless years-long quest for an NFL franchise), the PGA Tour was uniquely vulnerable to pressure from the Saudis and their almost limitless supply of money.

The Tour’s chief vulnerability: its players are independent contractors, meaning they could be bought. Which they were. In fact, they are the walking, talking, long-ball-hitting corporate shares that Icahn would have bought up.

Strip away enough players and you win. Bleed the PGA Tour through years of litigation and you win.

Nothing could have prevented the Saudis’ hostile takeover.

No wonder Jay Monahan had to take a medical leave after what can only be called a negotiated surrender.

Now, the only question to be answered is how the Saudis’ guy in the PGA Tour boardroom, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, plans to play his role.

While Monahan might wear the title of CEO of the new partnership, his title would be meaningless should Al-Ramayyan decline to back him with the Saudis’ checkbook.

As the saying goes, money talks and bullshit walks.

Never before was that as true as on June 6, 2023, the day the Saudis’ takeover of the PGA Tour was announced – a date which will live in golf infamy.

Dan Vukelich is the online editor of Alabama Golf News. He lives in Albuquerque, N.M.
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Featured image courtesy of Deposit Photos
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