“So, did you have a quiet day in the office yesterday?” That was the quip that came my way with more than a glint in the eye of the questioner as I walked my dog this morning. The initial answer was quite simply, “No”.
There’s a lot to unpack about the merger of PGA Tour, DP World and LIV and the challenge is that we’re trying to unpack when we don’t know how to open the suitcase. At this stage we have next to no details on what the deal will actually mean, except that there is (a presumably sizeable) commercial value for the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, and that the new entity that is being formed will see the Board made up of members from all parties concerned.
My initial reaction when I heard about it yesterday was one of shock. I simply didn’t believe it and I thought it was a joke. That’s how staunch the resistance to any form of deal has seemed to be on the side of the PGA & DP World Tours in recent times. But what do I know…clearly!
The party line since this all blew up, with players being fined, resigning, moving for crazy money and then fighting their corners in press conferences and on social media has been one of defiance. It was an ‘us versus them’ scenario with statements like: “This is one for the good guys” being made by players, and as recently as March this year Jay Monahan came out and said: “The PGA Tour is moving on. We have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be consistently distracted by rumours of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners, and most importantly our fans from enjoying the TOUR and the game we all love so much.”
Not exactly the words of a man looking to make peace and sign a merger?
Of course the world of social media went into meltdown with the announcement and I think that some of the reactions have come out of that shock. The issue isn’t necessarily that a deal has been done, I mean we all knew one had to be made somehow, but it’s more about how quickly, quietly and stealthily it was done and presented to us. In business terms the CEO of the company has seemingly gone and negotiated a merger with one of its biggest rivals and not told anyone until after it was agreed. The only reason that would happen in the general course of business is that the CEO likely thought the deal wouldn’t pass the shareholders….who in this case are the players. Looking at some of the reactions, he may have been right!
When all this washes out and we have more information, it will be telling who made the first move, how it was made and what the actual details of this initial agreement entail. But for now all we’re left with is shock.
At this point it’s the players I feel sorry for. Some of them were put very prominently front and centre, Rory McIlroy being one of the biggest, and they seemingly weren’t consulted or informed about this and learned about it at the same time and in a similar way that you and I did. Surely someone in the PR department at PGA Tour HQ must have told the folks concerned that that was a bad idea and a shocking way to treat your shareholders?
There was, as usual, a lot of outrage on social media as people voiced their opinions to what looked like a fairly hastily prepared press release that was sent by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour….but not by LIV Golf…which I found interesting.
So what have people said about the merger? Well, Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A, said, “We are pleased that an agreement has been reached which will help men’s professional golf move forward in a collaborative, constructive and innovative fashion. We care deeply about golf’s future and are committed to ensuring that the sport continues to thrive for many years to come. This agreement represents a huge step toward achieving that goal for golf and we look forward to working with the new entity for the benefit of the sport globally.”
While Asian Tour CEO, Cho Minn Thant said: “The Asian Tour welcomed and embraced yesterday’s news concerning the landmark announcement between the Public Investment Fund, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. This is a massive stride forward for the game and a great result for all parties concerned”.
So heads of various organisations have come out in support but those most affected by it have not, as yet, been heard from to any great degree. There have been some social posts but the press conferences this week will be interesting, particularly McIlroy’s on Wednesday – I’d wager it could be the best attended presser of the year!
Padraig Harrington did come out on Twitter with this though: “Surprised that this merger has happened so quickly but not surprised it’s happened. Definitely in the financial interest of both sides. Definitely in the financial interest of the players even though some of those who gain will feel like they’re losing. Good for the cohesion of global golf.”
Jack Nicklaus meanwhile, said to the Palm Beach Post that he had spoken with Jay Monahan and, “He seemed pleased with the arrangement that will once again bring together the best players in the world. I agree that this is good for the game of golf.”
As for the media – well Paul McGinley commented: “What we have seen unfold today is such a colossal and seismic change in the pro game and with everybody at the moment leaning on the ropes just wondering what it could mean for the game, and how it will all play out.”
And then the one we were all waiting for. Brandel Chamblee on the Golf Channel, one of the most vocal supporters of the PGA Tour said: “I’m hugely disappointed and let down by (PGA Tour) leadership. One of the first things I thought about was. I wonder what Tiger and Rory and several other players who would have turned down 10s if not 100s of millions of dollars to go to LIV would’ve thought. They stood on principle and they fought for the PGA Tour, and they fought for the betterment of the PGA Tour. And this just came out of nowhere. I would imagine this is going to be a very hard day for Jay Monahan.”
So what will happen now? That’s anyone’s guess. Will we see a reaction from the players, I imagine we will. They may well feel like they have been hoodwinked here and if the leadership want to avoid that they’ll need to get details out fast and get these guys back on board before they lose the dressing room entirely.