Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2025
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have agreed to a partnership, ending the rivalry that has divided golf for the past year. While golf fans may be rejoicing, it may be a premature celebration as the Justice Department has already been investigating the golf industry for anticompetitive behavior. The announcement of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf partnership has raised further concerns about monopolistic practices within the golf industry.
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf deep pockets
The PGA Tour is a non-profit organization that runs tournaments almost every weekend throughout North America (mainly the United States), Europe and Asia, known for its multimillion-dollar purses and famous golfers like Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer. LIV Golf is new to the golf scene and backed by billions of dollars from the Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. LIV Golf made a splash quickly after its 2021 entrance to golf by breaking traditional golf norms. LIV Golf was able to lure championship golfers like Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka away from the PGA tour with guaranteed payouts, looser dress codes, shorter rounds, and team competitions. Along with Mickelson and Koepka, players like Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau all reportedly received contracts worth over nine figures. Some PGA Tour players like Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm remained loyal to the PGA Tour and turned down multi-million dollar offers to join LIV Golf.
The partnership explained
On June 6th, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf announced a partnership between the two feuding golf entities. The partnership will consolidate LIV Golf’s finances with the PGA tour brand and ultimately make the Saudis investors in the PGA Tour. Additionally, the proposed partnership originally included a provision that each side would refrain from poaching each other’s players, meaning prominent golfers like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson would be unable to return to the PGA Tour. For golfers like McIlroy and Rahm who turned down offers to play on the LIV Tour, there are talks of loyalty payments from the PGA Tour to thank players who remained.
However, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf have reportedly abandoned their provision to leave each other’s players alone amid inquiries from the United States Justice Department. The proposed partnership raises concerns for some as it makes the Saudis investors in U.S. golf’s legacy powerhouse, but for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf a partnership would end ongoing litigation between the two entities. Apart from the partnership, the PGA Tour would continue to exist as a governing body outside of a joint money-making venture with the Saudis. The commercial and business rights of the PGA Tour would be joined with the golf-related business rights of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund; however the PGA Tour would have complete authority with respect to all operational and strategic aspects concerning competition within golf.
If the partnership goes through, it could very well change the game of golf forever. For golfers, especially PGA Tour golfers, this partnership could be a blessing in disguise. Currently, LIV Tour golfers are banned from the PGA Tour, but can qualify to participate in the four major championships: The U.S Open, The Open Championship (or the British Open) The US PGA Championship, and The Masters. On the flip side, PGA Tour golfers risk losing their PGA Tour membership and eligibility to play in PGA Tour events. A partnership between the two golf entities could mean a return to the PGA Tour for LIV Golf players and the chance to play for bigger purses for PGA Tour golfers. For consumers the partnership could signal the return of their favorite rivalries to watch. As for the future of golf, this partnership may limit the ability of future golfers to negotiate and advocate for themselves.
Antitrust concerns related to the partnership
Golf fans are not the only ones expressing concern about the partnership between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. On June 13th, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Ron Wyden wrote a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting the DOJ look into the partnership and oppose it claiming it violates the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1890 and the Sherman Antitrust Act. The DOJ has made it clear that it will be reviewing the planned partnership for antitrust concerns. Beyond its partnership with LIV Golf, the partnership also involves DP World Tour which organizes the European Tour. For about a year, LIV Golf has been pursuing and participating in litigation against the PGA Tour alleging the PGA Tour has been operating as an illegal monopoly restraining trade in the golf industry. If the DOJ fails to break up this partnership any competition within the golf industry will essentially cease to exist. Even though the partnership may prolong or even put an end to future litigation between the two golf entities, the overarching antitrust concerns outweigh the personal interests of both LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.
For the PGA Tour and LIV Golf a partnership means the days of costly litigation are behind them and they no longer have to bribe and threaten golfers with risks of losing membership cards to keep them attending their events. But for golfers and the game itself, the partnership could be the beginning of the end. The removal of any competition in the golf industry may reduce the sport to golfers who are willing to subject themselves to the conditions set by the partnership with those who are not leaving the sport entirely. Reducing competition in the industry could mean reducing the level of competition on the course. For PGA Tour loyalists, who resent LIV Golf for making the sport about money rather than the game itself, playing for the partnership may be worse than retiring from the sport. This partnership would change the game of golf as we know it, but golf would be better off taking a mulligan.