In the aftermath of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour partnering with LIV Golf’s financiers, we spoke with players and officials to form five predictions for professional golf’s main tours.

Getty images: Chris Trotman/LIV Golf

When trying to guess what the future holds for LIV Golf and the PGA and DP World tours, look no further than LIV’s first event after the bombshell June 6 announcement of a framework agreement between the two circuits and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). At LIV Golf Andalucia, at southern Spain’s famed Valderrama course, the message was clear: LIV Golf, and its financiers at the PIF, are not going anywhere.

That week in Spain, PIF governor Yasir al-Rumayyan assured his 48 players the start-up league was “his baby” and he had no plans to dissolve it. That’s despite PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan saying he “couldn’t see” how LIV Golf and the PGA Tour could run concurrently in 2024 and beyond – when the two parties are expected to form a new, for-profit entity. Two-time major winner and LIV recruit Martin Kaymer also used the “baby” analogy when I asked him about the situation in June: “If I were the PIF and I’d created this baby, and that baby becomes an adult and is successful, why would I get rid of it? I don’t understand. This is just my common [sense] thinking. I have difficulties believing that LIV will go away next year. I just don’t see any reason why it should.”

Monahan’s comments weren’t the only doubt cast over LIV Golf. Its chief executive and commissioner, Greg Norman, was not mentioned in the initial media releases about the shock partnership. That omission caused rumours to swirl that the Shark wouldn’t be part of LIV’s future. Yet, at Valderrama, the two-time Open champion and former world No.1 was riding around in a cart with Al-Rumayyan; Norman even walked the last hole with the final group as Talor Gooch made birdie to secure his third LIV victory of the season.

LIV Golf continuing into 2024 and beyond is a good bet, and one that should come with low odds. “LIV will go into 2024; they’re doing the schedule now,” star recruit Dustin Johnson said in June. But what else can we expect in the immediate future of professional golf? What does it all mean for Australia? From speaking to players, managers, caddies and officials, I’ve concocted five predictions for the next couple of years.

Getty images: Asanka Ratnayake

1. Double Down Under

Starting with Australia because, let’s be honest, that’s what we care most about. LIV Golf officials are actively planning for a second tournament in Australia in 2024. The success of LIV Golf Adelaide at Grange Golf Club in April was lauded across the sporting world, and footage of the bedlam that followed Chase Koepka’s ace at the par-3 party hole went viral.

During that week, two-time major winner Johnson revealed officials were in talks to beef up LIV’s presence Down Under. “I think [we can bring a second tournament to Australia],” he said. “I think that’s in the works.” Added Englishman Paul Casey: “You love your sport down here. It’s so nice to be back down here and it’s almost sacrilegious there haven’t been more events [run by other tours in Australia]. I know there’s been a Presidents Cup, but this is different. So different. It’s needed it. I’ll play [another tournament each year in Australia if needed].”

Where Johnson misspoke in Adelaide was suggesting that “it would be nice to play back-to-back weeks down here with the fans and all the excitement”. Since Adelaide, sources have revealed the two events in Australia would probably be held six months apart. Adelaide, which is under a multi-year contract, will maintain its late April slot. But one official said when LIV stalwart Phil Mickelson had spoken about LIV tournaments in Australia, a second is more likely to be staged in September. One of the main reasons for separating them is due to what another industry insider describes as “tourism cannibalism”. The colourful term refers to the potential for backfire when two events are held in consecutive weeks; fans will probably only travel to the event in their backyard or closest to it, avoiding the other. It’s seen as tourism turning on itself. But if the events are far enough apart, the chance that some fans will travel to both increases.

Wherever the second Australian LIV event is held – Golf NSW has publicly indicated it is eager to stage a LIV event while Cameron Smith’s home state of Queensland would surely want to be involved in discussions – it is likely to be underwritten by the financial support of a state government. That government will want the economic return on its investment in the form of in-bound tourism. Might we mention that September/October is a wonderful time of year for Australian golf courses, when the grass is soaking up the spring sun?

2. The three tours will co-exist

OK, a prediction on how professional golf’s major tours will look like in future. Firstly, we’ll start with some background. The “framework agreement” announced on June 6 (and later spelled out in a five-page document) essentially meant that the PIF, which finances LIV Golf among other sports, and the two established pro tours drafted an agreement to form a new, for-profit entity called PGA Tour Enterprises. Within that, the PIF will be an investor (the capacity of which is not yet clear) and the PGA Tour will run the golf operations. The PGA Tour is reportedly moving its commercial assets into that entity. Al-Rumayyan will be the chair of this new company and Monahan the chief executive. The parties have until December 31 to formalise the agreement.

So where does that leave the PGA Tour and LIV, in terms of position? Arguably LIV now has the upper hand. With the antitrust lawsuit between the two parties now over, the PGA Tour’s legal leverage no longer exists. The PGA Tour also can’t sustain the elevated purses it was using to compete with LIV, given the tour’s biggest sponsors aren’t going to foot those bills anymore. The criticism over the morality of doing business with Saudi Arabia, despite its human rights record, is also gone. The PGA Tour partnered with the nation’s sovereign wealth fund. Even if the agreement doesn’t get signed, the initial partnership offers a green light for corporations and players to enter discussions with LIV. The PIF can also continue running LIV even if no deal is reached, in which case some PGA Tour players may entertain the idea of moving across.

So, that is to say, LIV Golf will not be pushed around but will instead be able to negotiate with the tour and its members (players) on the policy board. “If future negotiations lead to a proposed agreement, it would need approval by the [PGA] Tour’s Policy Board, which includes player directors,” a June 28 PGA Tour statement read.

It is known that Al-Rumayyan is a fan of teams golf, and team sports for that matter. The PIF is the majority owner of English football team Newcastle FC. He is also fond of LIV’s 54-hole, no-cut events and the innovation of shotgun starts at a pro level. Given that, it’s easy to see LIV Golf continuing as a 12-team competition in 2024. “We all believe that the model, there is a place in [golf] for it,” Graeme McDowell said. “There are 48 guys out here who believe deeply in the idea of teams that are international in nature, from the South African teams and Australian teams, Korean teams, American and European teams, we believe in the value of that.” Added Smith: “I think team golf is here to stay, and if you asked every one of us out here, all the 48 guys, I think everyone has such a good time and everyone enjoys what they’re doing out here, they love the competition. That team element really brings three or four guys really close that perhaps weren’t before. It’s unique.”

That said, after the PGA Tour performs a “good faith assessment” of LIV, as per the agreement, the PIF and PGA Tour may negotiate on how to splice in LIV Golf within the PGA Tour and DP World Tour seasons. My prediction – which I don’t forecast to happen as early as 2024 but perhaps in 2025 – is that the number of LIV events will be reduced, perhaps to 12 or even 10, so that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour could have stars like Brooks Koepka, Smith and Johnson play a handful of their events. In addition, one industry insider suggested the PIF could fund the PGA Tour’s ‘designated’ events, which this year each had $US20 million purses. The PGA Tour asking tournament sponsors to kick in extra millions for those purses is not sustainable in 2024, and someone has to foot the bill. LIV Golf staff and officials are planning full-steam ahead for 2024. LIV will co-exist with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour in some capacity next year.

Getty images: Mark Brake

3. There won’t be a stampede of stars returning to the PGA Tour or Europe, but some will dabble

Back in February and March, rumours swirled that several LIV Golf stars were unhappy on LIV and wanted out of their contracts. That proved to be untrue. They’re getting paid more to play less; it’s a simple equation. Although players will probably be allowed to re-apply for membership to the PGA Tour or DP World Tour, you won’t see Koepka, Smith, Johnson or Sergio Garcia rushing back. “I’m definitely not looking to play more golf than I’m playing now, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. Smith agreed: “Exactly like it is this year would be perfect for me; 14 and four majors… I’d take that for the rest of my career.” Added Koepka, who won the PGA Championship in May for his fifth major just a month after sharing second with Phil Mickelson at Augusta National: “Everybody is pretty happy with we’re they’re at right now; Phil and I [were] second at the Masters. Good showing by a bunch of LIV guys at the PGA, and then the US Open as well. I think the schedule has been fantastic. It’s definitely helped us in the preparation for the majors.”

On the flipside, though, some players do want to cherry-pick a handful of their favourite PGA Tour and DP World Tour stops for their global schedule. The PGA Tour is the pinnacle of history and elite competition, underpinned by legacy events such as invitationals like Tiger Woods’ event at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill stop in Florida and Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in Ohio, as well as fan favourites like the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town. “I would love to play the heritage events; Travelers [in Connecticut] has always been a great event, the RBC Heritage, the Arnold Palmer [Invitational], Mr Nicklaus’ event, Riviera and the Rocket Mortgage Classic,” Bryson DeChambeau said. “Probably won’t be too many [events], but it’ll be good to be back out there.”

In Europe, Germany’s Kaymer and Northern Ireland’s McDowell are keen to play several European events – particularly in their homelands.

“I would love to play on the European tour. I had great success there. I have good friends there,” Kaymer said. “I still believe that tour can be one of the strongest, especially with all the venues that they can provide in Europe. I would like to support a few events here and there because I enjoy playing them. I would have loved to play [June’s BMW International] in Germany. If that would be a possibility in the future, that would be nice.”

“I feel exactly the same way,” McDowell added. “I love the opportunity to support PGA Tour events and European tour events that I care about, [such as] the Irish Open. There’s no doubt, 14 events a year is a lot of golf, but we’ve always played probably between 20 and 30 events a year. I’ve always wanted to supplement my LIV schedule with other events to stay sharp.”

Getty images: Mike Ehrmann 

4. A few more PGA and DP World Tour pros will join LIV

They may not be high-profile, but a group of PGA Tour and DP World Tour pros are still open to joining LIV Golf and playing in its $US25 million events ($20 million individual purse; $5 million teams purse). “I mean, that evening [of June 6 and the framework agreement announcement], I got six messages from six different players on the DP World Tour [about] the future for them on LIV,” Kaymer said. “I think you will be surprised how many players want to play all different tours. This will be great for the game of golf if we have all the opportunities [and if] PGA Tour players and European tour players can play LIV tournaments. [But] I don’t know how that will work.”

Kaymer doesn’t know how that will work because the framework deal included a non-solicitation agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, which put a hold on any further recruiting efforts by LIV. But that’s recruiting; it may not stop players themselves actively sounding out LIV.

5. LIV Golfers will be allowed back into the fold at the Presidents Cup

This could even happen as early as September 2024, when the Presidents Cup heads ‘overseas’ to Canada and Royal Montreal Golf Club. At the time of writing, Koepka was in strong position for automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup’s USA team and American captain Zach Johnson had not ruled out using wildcards on LIV players like Dustin Johnson. The 2023 Ryder Cup going ahead smoothly in Rome will pave the way for LIV players to be welcomed back to the Presidents Cup given how the Europe-versus-USA event is far bigger. At the Presidents Cup, if International team captain Mike Weir is given six captain’s picks, it would be foolish to overlook the likes of Smith, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and other non-American/non-European players. The International team has won just one Cup (in 1998) in its history and they need all the help they can get.

“I think there’ll be more possibilities to play,” says Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa’s four-time International team representative. “The three of us [myself, and fellow LIV players Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace] have all played Presidents Cups, and we had a great time playing it. I still watched [the 2022 Cup at Quail Hollow] and was a bit disappointed not to be there. But hopefully that all can change going forward.”