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The PGA Tour-LIV Golf Merger Floated Up From A Sea Of Desperate Ideas

3:09 PM EDT on July 11, 2023

Liv Golf Commissioner Greg Norman rects after the 2023 Liv Golf tournament in Adelaide on April 23, 2023. (Photo by Brenton Edwards /
BRENTON EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)

There have been more revelations about the negotiations between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf than there are golfers, apparently because the art of the deal in golf is hurling poop at the walls just for the aerobic exercise of it all. The latest of these came Tuesday in the Senate hearings looking into (and eventually rubber-stamping, because it's easier to agree to stuff once the joy of grandstanding peters out) the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger. The nut graf, as old journalists like to say, is this little gem in the Washington Post story describing the proposals thrown out during the talks:

"Among the proposals that were floated: a global “World Golf Series” team event that would conclude in Saudi Arabia; LIV Golf continuing to operate as an independent tour with its schedule confined to the fall season; Greg Norman being sidelined and removed from his role as LIV Golf chief executive; Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy being given ownership of LIV Golf teams and participating in LIV Golf events; two elevated PGA Tour events branded by either PIF or the Saudi oil company Aramco; and a membership to the Augusta National Golf Club for Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF who is poised to be among the most powerful men in golf if the shocking alliance is finalized."

The two things that stand out here are Al-Rumayyan's membership to Augusta, because that is still the platinum standard for golf bragging, and the ouster of Greg Norman after he went to such trouble stirring up the revolutionaries. The negotiations went on through April and May, and the May meeting saw the PGA Tour and PIF, the Saudi Public Investment fund bankrolling LIV, exchange proposals that would dump Norman into the Marianas Trench while wearing the Sydney Opera House as ballast.

"On April 26, the Saudi's representatives shared a slide show titled 'The Best of Both Worlds' in which they proposed Woods and McIlroy’s involvement with LIV," writes the Post's Rick Maese, referencing a plan to give Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, two of LIV's more strident critics, a piece of the action they so eschewed. But the next sentence is where the fun is: "And in May, the two sides exchanged language that would oust both Norman and Performance54, the golf management company that helps run LIV, from all operations."

The argument put forward by PGA Tour COO Ron Price to the subcommittee on Tuesday was that since the PGA Tour would be running the tour, there would be no need for Norman and LIV in golf's new human pyramid. In other words, while still in the supine position and being force-fed a deal it didn't want to stomach, the PGA Tour negotiators wanted their 180 pounds of Australian flesh. Even in abject surrender, there was still room for revenge.

Alas, the Post reports that the proposal to chuck Norman was rejected by the PIF, and it's not clear if any of the proposals unveiled in today's Senate hearing are still under consideration.

But the idea was put on the table, and tells us how magnificently rancorous this shotgun marriage could still be. The PGA Tour understands the motives behind the acquisitive Saudis better than Norman's role on their behalf, and we would like to think they would undermine, slight, insult, and maybe even groinshot Norman at every opportunity. Now that's golf the way we want it—petty violence for petty reasons. I mean, who cares who's ranked eighth in the world when the executives are beating each other with fireplace shovels?

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal made his skepticism of the deal fairly clear, describing it as "the sellout it seems to be," and the good news is that Price and his fellow inflatable pool toy Jimmy Dunne, the architect of said sellout, said that a final agreement is not imminent and the two sides continue to negotiate.

“Being here in Washington, worrying about this, consumed with this, no, it’s making it a lot harder,” Dunne said, describing a process that is still a long way from ending. "There is no merger … there is simply an agreement to try to get to an agreement and settle the lawsuit.”

This means there are still more opportunities for the PGA Tour to try and mount Norman's head, hands, and arse on a plaque and hang it in the players' lounge at Winged Foot, and were I Blumenthal I would insist on having those negotiations televised/streamed, especially if Norman is in the room arguing not only to keep his job but to slaughter a few PGA Tour proles in response. Golf has always been too white-guy-dignified for its own good, the Waste Management Open being the most compelling proof of that, so a full-on fistfight over a polished oaken table at the Fontainebleau Hotel is the best marketing idea since the Musk-Zuckerberg fight-to-the-death we all promise to reacquaint ourselves to God to see.

Correction: A previous version of this post mistakenly identified Richard Blumenthal as a senator from Illinois.

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