PGA Tour admits it’s no better than LIV Golf by taking blood money

One truth we learned long ago about the people who run the exclusionary pursuits of professional and amateur golf is that they do not accept change unless they feel forced to.

Whether it was staging tournaments at places that practiced racial discrimination, or playing the Masters at a world-famous club that didn’t allow female members, golf only surrendered in the way former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson once swore his men’s-only retreat never would — at the point of a bayonet.

So the PGA Tour capitulated Tuesday because it felt it had no choice, at least as it relates to the bottom line. Never mind that the LIV Golf tour funded by the Saudis was something of a ratings disaster on the CW Network, or that its events were beyond meaningless, or that its team competition was nearly impossible to follow or care about.

The PGA Tour knew that its own product had suffered with the departures of big-name talents — including one, Brooks Koepka, who just won the PGA Championship and nearly won the Masters — and that the Public Investment Fund backing LIV was willing and able to hemorrhage money from here to eternity in its fight to secure a more substantial place in the game.

So faced with the ominous prospect of discovery in LIV litigation, and with the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation into a sport that loves to hang “Keep Out” signs on every gate and door in sight, the PGA Tour folded and cut the same kind of blood-money deal with the Saudis that it had roasted the likes of Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson for taking.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan
Getty Images

“PGA [Tour] Commissioner Jay Monahan co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA’s unequivocable agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than the sportwashing of Saudi Arabia’s reputation,” said 9/11 Families United chair Terry Strada, whose husband was among the nearly 3,000 murdered at the World Trade Center. “But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the Kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones.

“PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed.”

Yes, they should be. As we wrote last June, Monahan and his friends were so full of it when they attempted to make this a morality play. They finally admitted it Tuesday, when the PGA Tour abandoned the non-profit model for a for-profit marriage with the very entity it had accused of trying to destroy the sport.

Everything to know about the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger

PGA Tour and LIV Golf are ending a war — by joining forces.

The two golf leagues, along with the European DP World Tour, are merging into one company after a period of fierce rivalry, one where LIV Golf defectors were banned from competing on the Tour.

LIV, financed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund and led by legendary golfer Greg Norman, lured some of the top names in golf last year with reported nine-figure contracts, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

Other huge golf names, however, like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, stayed loyal to the Tour, despite being offered a massive amount of money.

Follow The Post’s coverage of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger

Norman said last year Woods turned down a payday in the range of $700 million-$800 million to stick with the PGA Tour.

With the merger, the Saudi-backed LIV and the Tour are ending an antitrust battle and agreed to end all litigation between the two sides.

“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. “This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA TOUR’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model.”


This was always about the money, as much as the Tour wanted people to believe it was about Saudi atrocities and human rights. The Tour saw its dominance threatened and lashed out against those who threatened it. In the end, it was just a modern-day case of the NFL against the USFL, with one exception:

This time the USFL won.

That doesn’t mean Mickelson and the rest didn’t deserve criticism for leaving the Tour for LIV — they absolutely did, at least to those of us who can’t understand why a circle of filthy rich athletes needed business partners like these.

But the critics and the galleries should have served as the lone judges and jurors here. If fans wanted to stop cheering for the LIV-and-let-LIV boys from tee to green, and to stop buying products from any companies that dared to sponsor them, so be it. That’s part of the Faustian arrangement the players made.

At the same time, those golfers didn’t break any laws. They didn’t deserve to be denied the world-ranking points needed by most to qualify for the four major championships — the only four tournaments that the non-diehards regularly follow. The PGA Tour was hoping it could wait out the existing exemptions for past major champions and end up with fields at the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and British Open that didn’t include a single LIV member.

Koepka’s PGA conquest provided more reason to believe that would never happen. Monahan realized that he was locked in a battle that he could only survive, but not win, and ended up making a fool of himself.

Phil Mickelson joined LIV Golf last year.
Phil Mickelson joined LIV Golf last year.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

This is what the commissioner told CBS’ Jim Nantz at last year’s Canadian Open:

“I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones [on 9/11]. So my heart goes out to them. And I would ask any player that has left or any player that would ever consider leaving — have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

This is what the commissioner effectively told PGA Tour players at this week’s Canadian Open:

“Forget everything I said.”

Only many players won’t forget. Some turned down huge guarantees from LIV to remain loyal to the Tour, only for Monahan to ultimately betray them and declare his own loyalty to the Saudis.

“After two years of disruption and distraction,” the commissioner said, “this is a historic day for the game we all know and love.”

This is a revealing day, above all, a day of picking cash over conscience. Just like the LIV boys did, the PGA Tour took the blood money and ran.

Ian O’Connor is a four-time best-selling author and former New York Post columnist who’s working on a biography of Aaron Rodgers.