The merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf Tour doesn’t have to wait long to see some corporate synergy, as one of the PGA’s four major tournaments, the US Open, tees off this week in California. Possibly the biggest cash cow on each side of the debate won’t have to wait long to get reacquainted with each other either, as Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy have been paired together to start the tournament on Thursday. The US Open is the first major since the shocking announcement of the leagues joining forces after years of litigation was revealed.
McIlroy was allegedly offered around $500 million to join the golf federation backed by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, while Koepka was one of the biggest defectors, allegedly receiving $100 million to leave the old PGA. Now, they’ll tee off with 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who reportedly turned down at least $300 million to stay with the PGA. It’s the most notable pairing of formerly affiliated talking heads for both golf leagues with McIlroy being a staunch supporter of the PGA. Oddly enough, it’s Koepka who won last month’s PGA Championship, the last tournament to be held with separate LIV and PGA banners, making that triumph at Oak Hill Country Club the only major victory for the solo LIV flag. McIlroy reportedly demanded five times the money to defect, but hasn’t won a major tournament in nine years.
LIV and PGA’s four-day public display of affection for each other will take place in the aftermath of the US Senate opening an investigation into the proposed merger between the leagues on Monday. It’s normal for someone to look into the financial validity and transparency of two major companies. It’s not normal for the US Senate to do it, with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal issuing both the PGA and LIV with letters in his role, as his role as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations allows. The investigation shouldn’t come as a surprise as Blumenthal has been outspoken about the lack of positives about the deal.
Monahan received the PGA’s letter, while former two-time-major-PGA-winner Greg Norman, now chief executive for LIV, received his federation’s letter. The Senate requested LIV turn over documents revealing the organization’s corporate structure, while the PGA must provide forms relating to its tax-exempt status under Section 510(c)(6), and how that status will be affected by a merger, per the letters, with a deadline of June 26 to complete the transfer of documents.
While the results at Los Angeles Country Club will have little or no impact on any Senate proceedings, seeing the mental wherewithal of the top golfers in the world after the sports’ game-changing last few weeks will be interesting. When everyone last convened at the PGA Championship, this was the last thing on everyone’s mind. Now everyone will get along and there will be no pushback about the likes of Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau after they accepted the Saudi’s money! The underlying tension is the biggest elephant in the room and should create an environment like none we’ve seen at a major tournament before.