May 19, 2024

The PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh believes men’s professional golf is not big enough for two elite-level tours to co-exist and says both the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf League “need” a merger deal to happen if that section of the sport is to thrive.


Talks between the PGA Tour and LIV’s backers, the Saudi PIF, are said to be continuing as the two parties reportedly try and complete an agreement which will allow a degree of unification at the top.


Rory McIlroy admitted in his pre-PGA Championship press conference on Wednesday that his confidence in something coming to fruition is as low as it has ever been following the news that the architect of the initial framework agreement, Jimmy Dunne, had resigned from the PGA Tour policy board.


However, Waugh said that he remained optimistic an agreement will be reached “over time” as “when both sides kind of need something to happen, it generally does.”


At Valhalla on Wednesday, he said: “On the deal side of things, look, I said earlier, it’s messy, and it has been, right, and it seems to get messier every week. I’m a little bit — I’m a very optimistic type and I’m sort of hoping it’s darkest before dawn, if you will, but I think, you know, I think the best thing for the game is a deal. And we’ve been very consistent on that front.”


PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh


Waugh during the 2023 PGA Championship.


Part of the reason behind Waugh’s confidence in a deal going through eventually appeared to come down to the fact that – despite a $3 billion investment into the US-based circuit by the Strategic Sports Group and the seemingly infinite pockets of Saudi Arabia – he believes neither business model will present a worthwhile ROI while the PGA Tour and LIV are competing for players and eyeballs.


Waugh continued: “What has been an unsustainable business model has put pressure on other places like the [PGA] Tour that creates some financial dynamics as well as other dynamics that are very hard, and quite frankly it puts some financial pressure on us, as well.


“I don’t think the game is big enough for two tours like that, and I think we are diluting the game in a way that is not healthy. We’ve said that, really, from the beginning. I hope there’s a deal.


“I think both sides are not only committed to trying to find a deal but really need a deal, and in my history of deal making, when both sides kind of need something to happen, it generally does.”


Talking to British media about the potential merger recently, DP World Tour CEO Guy Kinnings suggested even if an agreement is reached fairly soon, that new dawn is unlikely to be on show before 2026 at the very earliest.


Guy Kinnings


DP World Tour CEO, Guy Kinnings


Waugh, on the other hand, declined to hazard a guess at an end date to the sport’s ‘civil war’ but urged the involved parties to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible so as not to cause further damage.


He said: “I don’t know the timing. I don’t have any insider information that you all don’t have. But I’m hopeful that there will be a deal over time. And what I would say, I hope there’s urgency because I do think it’s doing damage to the [PGA] Tour, to the game.


“As I said earlier, I hope it’s short-term damage, as opposed to permanent damage, and so I hope there’s some urgency in the timing around it because I just don’t think it’s a healthy situation right now.”

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