The upstart and controversial LIV Golf is merging with its often hard-core competitor PGA Golf, which also includes the European-based DP Golf Tour, also known as the PGA European Tour.
The news comes amid lawsuits and litigation with regard to antitrust and other issues between the two professional golf groups. Financial terms were not disclosed.
LIV Golf, now in its second year in operation -- backed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, an entity controlled by the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman -- had upset the professional golf world by giving guaranteed appearance dollars for top PGA golf stars -- some of whom were banished by the PGA Golf Tour.
LIV Golf also quicken the matches with new rules -- including shorter rounds and golf “team” competition.
Other rules include “shotgun” starts where, at the beginning of a particular round, all the golfers are on the course at the same time -- each golfing group positioned on a different hole. The groups play a full 18-hole round and finish at the hole at which they started.
A merger of the two golf groups, under a yet-to-be-named for-profit company, would combine both LIV and PGA commercial businesses. It would also end all pending litigation.
The deal is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks. The PGA Tour policy board needs to approve the deal.
LIV Golf got a boost earlier this year when it inked a U.S. TV deal with Nexstar Media Group's The CW network, to air 14 matches in 2023. That deal will not be affected for the remainder of this year, according to CW representatives.
LIV Golf has had a controversial start because of the backing by the Saudi investment fund -- reported to be around $2 billion.
Critics of the new golf group believe supporting such sports business efforts amounts to “sports washing” -- that is, portraying a positive image of Saudi Arabia against what many believe are the country's human rights violations, as well as issues around the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
PGA Tour matches and content are seen on U.S. networks including CBS, NBC, Golf Channel, and ESPN, as well as related streaming platforms of those channels, Paramount+, Peacock and ESPN+.