It was almost a year ago to the day that Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf teed off for the first time as the PGA Tour’s newest rival, flush with defectors from golf’s top circuit.
Morals were questioned. Lawsuits were filed. Golfers doubled down on their affiliations.
A merger, it seemed, wasn’t in the cards. But on Tuesday, professionals from both tours were caught off guard by news that their worlds would collide.
When a news outlet broke the embargoed announcement that the PGA Tour, European tour and LIV Golf were merging commercial interest before PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan could send a memo to players, some learned about it on social media.
“Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with,” Mackenzie Hughes tweeted.
“And everyone thought yesterday was the longest day in golf,” tweeted Collin Morikawa, who also said he found out about the merger on Twitter.
Justin Thomas was in the middle of a practice session when he said his phone lit up with notifications.
Tyrell Hatton simply tweeted an NFL blindside hit. Sepp Straka felt that was an accurate depiction.
Not getting in on the social media reaction was Rory McIlroy, who spent the past year vehemently defending the PGA Tour against LIV before going quiet on the topic in recent weeks.
Phil Mickelson, among the loudest LIV defectors, called Tuesday “an awesome day.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how the unification would work going forward. Players who switched to LIV inked lucrative signing bonuses — in Mickelson’s case, a reported $200 million — yet now might have a way to rejoin players who opted not to take money from a league that some have called a Saudi Arabia “sportswashing” initiative.
J.J. Spaun retweeted ESPN sportscaster Scott Van Pelt’s take on that issue.
“So, you preach loyalty to a tour and convince guys not to take 8 and 9 figure deals based, in part, on that loyalty and, in part, on the source of the money. Then those guys find out on Twitter YOU took the very same money?” Van Pelt tweeted.
PGA Tour member Byeong Hun An joked that Hideki Matsuyama “could have bought spirit airlines” if he had signed with LIV (Matsuyama was seen boarding a Spirit Airlines flight after the Memorial). He also said his guess is “liv teams were struggling to get sponsors and pga tour couldn’t turn down the money.”
“Win-win for both tours but it’s a big lose for (players) who defended the tour for last two years,” he tweeted.
Dylan Wu, a 26-year-old second-year player on the PGA Tour, called the merger “hypocrisy.”
“Tell me why Jay Monahan basically got a promotion to CEO of all golf in the world by going back on everything he said the past 2 years,” Wu tweeted, adding: “I guess money always wins.”
Monahan told The Associated Press he was aware the merger would be criticized.
“They were going down their path, we were going down ours, and after a lot of introspection you realize all this tension in the game is not a good thing,” he said in a phone interview with the AP.
PGA Tour players at the Canadian Open were to get a bit more insight Tuesday from Monahan, who was headed to Toronto to discuss the merger with those at the Canadian Open (some of the tour’s top golfers are not at the tournament).
Michael Kim thinks it’ll be an interesting meeting.
“Alright guys. How much to live stream the player meeting at 4 today??? (I’m KIDDING)…. But seriously….,” Kim tweeted.
He added: “Very curious how many people knew this deal was happening. About 5-7 people? Player run organization right?”