Saudi crown prince buys PGA Tour–and control of golf in North America

An important story about international business, geopolitics, and human rights plays out on the links.

For decades, the PGA Tour has organized professional golf tournaments in the United States and North America. It is essentially the MLB, NBA and NFL of American golf.

In 2021, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund, founded a competing golf "league," called LIV Golf. It offered the biggest golfers in the world vast sums of money to switch from the PGA Tour to its own tour. Some of the biggest stars in golf took the money and made the switch.

But some refused, no doubt because of the tradition of the PGA Tour and its call for loyalty, but there were also concerns about being in business with Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, involved in many crimes, human rights atrocities, and anti-Americanism.

Tiger Woods, for example, reportedly turned down $800 million to join the LIV tour.

In June of 2022, 9/11 Families United, a group of families and survivors of the 9/11 attacks, wrote a letter to American players who joined the LIV Tour: "When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit with their whitewash, and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately crave – and are willing to pay handsomely to manufacture."

Judd Legum and Rebecca Crosby point out in their Popular Information newsletter that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan implored players not to participate in that.

In an interview, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan responded to the letter. "I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones [on 9/11] — my heart goes out to them," Monahan said. "I would ask that any player that has left, or that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?"

That all changed yesterday. LIV Golf and the PGA Tour agreed to merge, in what many are describing as LIV Golf simply buying the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour, all professional players, and all golf fans, now must be in business with Saudi Arabia. It owns the sport.

Golfers were blindsided by the news. All those who refused to take huge paychecks to participate in LIV Golf now must participate anyway. Those who took the paychecks now keep the money and get the tradition and prestige of the PGA Tour.

I came to the news and understood its importance from this clip from the Rich Eisen Show.