The proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is reportedly at risk of collapse, while several of the sport’s stars have been tipped to move to the controversial breakaway circuit.
Last year, a bitter civil war broke out within the golfing world after the Saudi-backed series was launched and removed many major stars from the PGA Tour.
However, in June this year there was the shock announcement of plans to merge the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, with discussions still ongoing.
The ‘framework agreement’ between the parties at the time included a clause that, while a deal was being discussed, LIV would not attempt to sign any more stars from their rival tour.
However, that clause was dropped when the US Department of Justice raised concerns about its anti-competitive nature, meaning LIV could still add to its pool of players, which includes Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau, among others.
The proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is in danger of collapsing
After a bitter civil war broke out within the golf world following the launch of LIV, it was announced in June that the Saudi-backed circuit and the PGA Tour would merge (Photo – PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan)
And Mickelson – a six-time major winner – believes that, despite ongoing discussions between the tours, there will be another massive exodus of star golfers to the breakout circuit.
“LIV must continue to evolve,” Mickelson said The Telegraph. ‘But we’ve only been around for a year and a half and we look at the quality of the players we already have.
“And that will continue to improve next year and it will continue to improve the year after.”
‘Do I think (more players will switch to LIV)? No. I know that will happen. When players watch LIV, they want to be part of it.
“Everyone here is happy and enjoying what we’re doing and enjoying the team aspect of it and the camaraderie and all the benefits that come with playing this tour.”
The American went on to explain how he has even spoken to several colleagues in the sport who have expressed interest in a move.
He added: “The reality is that, like all of us, I have fielded calls from players who are free agents to PGA Tour players who want to come over.
‘So the question is how many places are available? There are many more players who want to come than there are places.
“I think those merger talks (between the PGA Tour and LIV) open the door for that.”
Poulter, who also defected to LIV last year, echoed Mickelson’s calls and said it was natural for players to want to join the breakout circuit.
“There will be a lot of interest in it,” he says. ‘I’m not going to mention any names, but we have been contacted about players wanting to participate.
‘And that’s no surprise. Think about it, they’ll probably get fined, but if a player takes that chance and pays say $50,000 (£41,268) or whatever, he’ll make it into the top three and earn at least $1.75 million (£ 1.44 million) in 14 events in 2024. That’s a minimum. Even if they shoot level 80s every week.
“It’s $20 million purses and on top of that the prizes from the team events, and you’re playing against the likes of Brooks, DJ, Cam and Talor (Gooch) every week? If you’re on the DP World Tour, you’d be crazy not to back yourself and give it a try. It’s a different level.’
Tiger Woods (left) and Rory McIlroy (right) rejected overtures to participate in the LIV Golf series
But Phil Mickelson (left) and Ian Poulter (right) said more stars are likely to defect and join LIV
Reports in the Telegraph go on to say that the chances of the merger potentially collapsing are likely to come to a head when LIV’s 2024 qualifying event takes place in December, which is the same time as the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Any member of the PGA Tour who wishes to defect therefore risks being punished by the governing body if he or she participates in the qualifying event, which is especially relevant given the various legal battles over the past 18 months.
For example, at LIV’s inaugural event in June 2022, all those players who appeared without permission were fined £100,000 and banned from one tournament.
It remains to be seen whether negotiations between the rival tours can be completed in time for the December 31 deadline, while reports that US billionaire investors are preparing to back the PGA Tour mean there may yet be an eventual rift in the relationship could occur between the parties.