Beyond The Course: Vol. 2

From Division to Cohesion: Reimagining the Professional Golf Landscape

The golf world has been filled with controversy, different opinions, arguing, and division for 18 months now, but I think there is one single thing that we can (nearly) all agree on. The players, fans, sponsors, media, everyone. We’ve all at least thought it at some point, if not verbalized it.

We want all of the best players playing together as much as possible.

While there’s a (very fair) argument that the emergence of LIV Golf has put us further from that, I think looking at the whole picture provides some necessary context.

The PGA Tour over the last year has implemented elevated events to bring the top players on tour together 10 or so times per season in a limited field, sometimes with no cut. This feels a lot closer to something that would have been better for fans, sponsors, and players. Fans get to see the best vs. the best more far more often than we did previously, sponsors can comfortably increase their investments into the events as they know exactly who will be playing. Sometimes they are even guaranteed the big names will play the full event.

However, and there’s a lot of data to support this, it just wasn’t going to work with the current tour structure. The increase in viewership has been marginal, but the sponsorship fees for these events were estimated to be increased 250%. The small increase in viewership didn’t suffice for sponsors. We’ve already seen several speak out.

Per a (Found here) article, one long time PGA Tour Tournament Director was quoted as saying “The title sponsors aren’t going to put any more (money) up”.

Another said “Our TV ratings aren’t worth it, You’re playing in a sport that has a cap on it, and we’ve reached our cap”

My personal take on this is that this is largely due to the PGA Tour’s focus on playing events in the US. Technically they do co-sanction a few European Tour events, and I think that’s a great starting point, but it needs to be vastly expanded.

8 international team events threaded throughout the PGA Tour season, with 14 stars from around the world as captains, rosters filled with a mix of top 100 players and upcoming talent all culminating in a United States team championship. This would require a culling of PGA Tour events and adjustment of their schedule to optimize schedules around majors and not overlap with the tour’s most historic events, but it’s undoubtedly possible.

5 player teams with only four players playing each event to allow flexibility. If Brooks needs a week off, the other four play. If Rickie would rather prep for the upcoming PGA Tour event, his teammates play the international team event and he gets some rest.

Some players will opt to play all 9 LIV Series Events, rounding out their schedule with European, Asian, or PGA Tour events. Some may play 4 LIV Series Events and focus more on other tours, while some may opt out as a whole and play a more traditional schedule.

The teams could be fully sponsored. Brooks’ team will be kitted out with Nike, Rahm’s will be playing all Callaway, and some teams may even have their own apparel lines launched through their existing sponsors.

Callaway was already offered an equity stake in Jon Rahm’s team, even with the current division.

The events would be rotate annually throughout the worlds top venues, such as:

Valderrama, Spain

St Andrews, Scotland

Royal Birkdale, England

Hong Kong Golf Club, China

Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore

Royal Melbourne, Australia

Barnbougle Dunes, Tazmania

Santapazienza, Brazil

Nine Bridges, Korea

The list goes on…

The Club at Nine Bridges

The team championship in the US would be one of the signature golf events of the year, at a top US venue like:




Winged Foot

And more.

Winged Foot Golf Club

All of the world’s top players under one umbrella with a designated percentage of revenue to be donated to charities supporting the communities hosting the events. Additional revenue could help fund PGA Tour events, lessening the pressure from sponsors and providing further opportunities to more players.

An expansion like this would attract international sponsorships, massive media deals, and private equity interest beyond what anyone could imagine. Sponsors would no longer worry about which side is going to prevail, or who is going to play, and could justify larger percentages of their budgets to sponsoring these events The benefits to the game of golf would be massive, with revenue going directly to causes that truly grow the game around the world. The PGA Tour’s mission of providing opportunities to touring golf professionals would be preserved, and LIV Golf’s mission of expanding the game through innovation on a global stage would be enhanced.

Bringing the best players around the world in a cohesive manner like this will spark growth in the game similar to what we’ve seen in Australia. The LIV event there is a massive success. One of the main reasons for this, in my opinion, is because for a time they did have elite golfers there annually, and then they stopped. People were introduced to the game as a result, became fans, and then the desire to watch elite professional golf grew. LIV took advantage of that, and the event was one of the best of the 2023 year.

The same thing can happen in almost any country in the world. All that needs to happen is the top players need to play globally to spark this. It’s not going to happen overnight, but truly sparking growth in the game at an international level is what it’s going to take to grow this thing as a whole.

While the signing of Jon Rahm may seem like we’re headed in the complete opposite direction, I think maybe that’s not the case.

Leverage in the ongoing negotiations is shifting at a rapid pace. On Thursday LIV signs Rahm, on Friday a sponsor of a PGA Tour signature event informs the tour they will not renew their sponsorship after this upcoming year. Over the next few weeks we will learn who else has will be joining LIV, because Rahm certainly isn’t going to be coming alone, and the tour’s position could further weaken.

Play out a hypothetical here: What if they sign someone like Hovland? Two of the tour’s three most long-term marketable assets have left for the competitor that you are actively trying to merge with, sponsors are pushing back on current fees as you the tour plans to increase them further. They’ve already detailed the threat of LIV recruiting players amidst their current financial struggles as an “existential crisis”, and this would only exacerbate that issue. There’d simply be no leverage left for the PGA Tour. They’d be at the will of PIF.

At face value it seems dire for the tour, and the divide has been less than ideal for the fans. However the position of leverage that PIF & LIV find themselves in may turn out to be advantageous for all three parties (player, fan, sponsors). A global tour is not only exactly what I think the game needs to thrive, it’s what Yasir, Greg, and LIV are actively trying to accomplish. Their newly obtained leverage in negotiations might actually be the first in long series of steps that get the game as a whole in a very healthy place. The PGA Tour can thrive, the LIV Team Series can thrive, the European Tour and Asian Tours can thrive, and therefore the game as a whole can thrive.

When LIV was going to just keep pushing ahead and the tour’s top players were going to hold firm the situation looked like it was close to 50/50 in leverage. The PGA Tour needs the influx of cash from PIF (yes they have interest from outside investors, but they aren’t going to love the idea of losing top assets to LIV in an already concerning financial situation), and PIF wants the seamless access to the golf world and the connections that come with it. With the signing of Rahm it’s certainly not 50/50 in leverage, it’s probably 75/25 favoring PIF, and that could tilt more in their direction in the coming weeks. Both sides are going to have to make concessions for this merger to go through, but when leverage is 50/50 it’s far easier for each side to stand firm. The tilting of leverage in one direction may be the jump start they needed to start working out a deal that improves things for all of us. The game may be more divided than it’s been in a long time, but it also may be closer to being more unified than ever before.

Here’s to hoping for the best.