How the PGA Tour-LIV Golf Merger Came Together

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, had gone unnoticed in Venice last month.

With luck, he thought over breakfast near the Palazzo Ducale, his confidential talks in Italy with Yasir al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s more than $700 billion sovereign wealth fund, might stay secret. A leak would endanger what only a handful of insiders knew: that the PGA Tour was considering going into business with al-Rumayyan’s LIV Golf league, whose monthslong clash with Monahan’s tour had become a fight as much over golf’s soul as its future.

Then Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1’s chief executive, strolled into view. He was in town for the same wedding that had brought al-Rumayyan to Venice. If the motor sports executive spotted the PGA Tour’s leader, he would assuredly connect the presences of Monahan and al-Rumayyan, and golf’s greatest secret might get out. All Monahan could do, he told people later, was try to dodge Domenicali’s gaze.

But Domenicali never seemed to notice him. What would ultimately amount to seven weeks of clandestine meetings and furtive calls stayed hidden until a stunning announcement last Tuesday: The PGA Tour, the dominant force in men’s elite golf for decades, planned to join forces with LIV, the upstart that had provoked debate over the morality of Saudi money in the game.

The agreement was a singular moment in the history of the professional game. The civil war that had disrupted and defined the once genteel sport — for example, Monahan once publicly asked whether PGA Tour players had ever felt compelled to apologize for competing on the circuit — was abruptly suspended. The tour’s reputation was stained and many of its loyalists were furious, but its coffers were poised to overflow.

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