The PGA Tour and DP World Tour announced a 13-year joint venture to strengthen their strategic alliance in the face of the LIV Golf threat. What does it mean for Australia? 

In the face of a potential fissure in the professional ranks, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour announced a 13-year strategic alliance to combat the emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

In a joint press conference held on June 29 alongside DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the deal will “significantly enhance the meritocracy that has successfully served the professional game on both sides”.

“It was clear from the outset that our strategic partnership with the European Tour Group was a powerful agreement for both sides, and we are thrilled with today’s announcement of this expanded partnership,” Monahan said. “We will continue to collaborate on a global schedule and key commercial areas as we draw our organisations and memberships even closer together while innovating to provide the most entertaining and compelling golf possible to fans around the world.”

Pelley faced options, but also a difficult choice.

Added Pelley: “It is a natural extension and progression of what we have been doing over the past few years and I passionately believe that this move is the right thing for our players, our tour, our fans and the game of golf in general.”

According to a release, the PGA Tour will increase its existing stake in European Tour productions from 15 to 40 percent, with an aim to “continue to co-ordinate a worldwide schedule”.

Additionally, as part of the increased alliance, the top 10 finishers on the DP World Tour season rankings will earn PGA Tour cards for the next season. The DP World Tour will also guarantee growth in annual prize funds to its membership for the next five years, all above the record 2022 levels unveiled as part of the DP World Tour title partnership arrangement announced last November.

However, while at the time the PGA Tour was set to begin a series of co-sanctioned events with the DP World Tour – already highlighted by July’s Genesis Scottish Open – Monahan said there are no plans to add more tour events in European markets at this time.

The announcement came a week after Monahan laid out wholesale changes to the PGA Tour. Beginning in 2024, the tour will return to a calendar-year schedule, with the FedEx Cup Playoffs reducing its entrants from 125 players to 70. The top 50 finishers will be eligible for three international events in the American autumn featuring lucrative purses, while the rest of the players will play in domestic autumn events to jostle for priority numbers and to preserve their status for the next season among the top 125.

Additionally, eight tournaments will receive significant purse bumps: the Sentry Tournament of Champions ($US15 million, up from $8.2 million in 2022); Genesis Invitational ($20 million, up from $12 million); Arnold Palmer Invitational ($20 million, up from $12 million); Players Championship ($25 million, up from $20 million); WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play ($20 million, up from $12 million); Memorial Tournament ($20 million, up from $12 million); FedEx St Jude Championship, the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs ($20 million, up from $15 million); and the BMW Championship, the second event of the playoffs ($20 million, up from $15 million).

Continuing the tit-for-tat between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, the announcement was delivered at the same time that LIV Golf was introducing Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Wolff and Abraham Ancer as its newest signees at its event in Portland. Paul Casey signed up only days later.

Gavin Kirkman photo by Peter Tarasiuk

What does it all mean for Australia?

That’s the update as it pertains to the northern hemisphere. Of acute interest in our part of the world, however, is where the PGA Tour of Australasia stands. It has existing co-sanctioning agreements in place with the DP World Tour to honour, yet the promise offered by the Greg Norman-led LIV Golf circuit was surely as tempting to align with from a tournament standpoint as it has been for many players. Ultimately, the PGA Tour of Australasia opted to stay with the status quo.

“The PGA of Australia is fully supportive of the US PGA Tour and the DP World Tour as they continue to bring the global golf ecosystem together,” said Gavin Kirkman, chief executive officer of the PGA of Australia. “We are in regular contact with both of the tours and… we are excited about the future. Our working relationship with both tours is stronger than ever as we continue to seek the best outcomes for our players, fans and the sport in our region.

“Specifically, the opportunities presented by the move to a calendar-year schedule for the PGA Tour should pave the way for our Australian stars to return home for our major events, and importantly, we have been actively talking to tours about bringing events
to Australia.

“The ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia is focused on its strategic alliance with the DP World Tour, which is providing unprecedented pathways for our players to progress on that tour, along with the Korn Ferry Tour via the PGA Tour. We want to provide the best possible opportunities for all Australian touring professionals, and we’re confident that working closely with the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour will help us achieve that.

“Golf is still booming in Australia and we’re excited for our fans about the upcoming summer of golf on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and the WPGA Tour of Australasia. It is fantastic for our summer of golf that our two Aussie major tournaments, the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and the Australian Open, are both co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and will kick off their 2022-2023 season.

“Our season is still some months away from starting, but we can’t wait to welcome back our Australian stars to feature in our two marquee events in November and December.”

The PGA Tour of Australasia’s decision doesn’t necessarily hinder any plans LIV Golf might have of extending its tournament tentacles into Australia. As an unencumbered entity, it needs no permission to do so. A new tournament with a stacked field, a huge purse and held on a great course a week or two before the Australian PGA and Open would certainly liven up our circuit and add a local dimension to this ongoing global saga.