“The framework agreement was the most botched announcement I have ever seen”

In this exclusive and explosive extract from Golf Wars: LIV and Golf’s Bitter Battle for Power and Identity, author Iain Carter reveals how the DP World Tour were left infuriated by Jay Monahan after a series of blunders and selfish decisions last summer…

It’s coming up to two years since a Saudi-backed upstart parked its tanks on the lawn of golf’s establishment. That week, 48 players played in the first $25 million LIV Golf event at Centurion Club and set off a chain of events that led to fines, suspensions, resignations, and a legal dispute that almost bankrupted the PGA Tour.

All the secret meetings, WhatsApp messages, and boardroom blunders form the basis of a brilliant new book – Golf Wars: LIV and Golf’s Bitter Battle for Power and Identity – in which BBC broadcaster Iain Carter presents a compelling account of how the breakaway league came to be and the internal conflict that resulted from greed, betrayals and a a major ‘f*** up’ on June 6.

Here’s an exclusive taste of what you can expect…

Meetings, money and change

Stunned observers were taking in the breaking news while CNBC’s Squawk on the Street show aired the half-hour interview involving Monahan and Al-Rumayyan. It was extraordinary to see these two apparently sworn enemies now sitting chummily together in the New York Stock Exchange studios.

The PIF Governor insisted that the PGA Tour would retain control even if his body made bigger capital contributions to the new entity than the golf circuit. He also optimistically and erroneously claimed it would take only “weeks” for the agreement to be finalized.

Already the narrative was moving towards this being a ‘merger’. News organizations were running with the line that it was a coming-together of the PGA and LIV. This infuriated the DP World Tour, who were also signatories to what was nothing more than a Framework Agreement.

Jay Monahan infuriated Keith Pelley by keeping him out of the TV interview on June 6.

The European circuit were also aggrieved that their boss, Keith Pelley, was absent from the New York interview on CNBC. “That was the most botched announcement I have ever seen,” a highly placed source told me. “They were never meant to do an interview just the two of them . . . they released it half an hour early. And they release it as a merger! You’re chasing your tail now.”

One official called it “a fuck up” and there was a strong feeling that Pelley – an astute media operator – would have steered the interview more effectively than Monahan.

Given all that had been said and done in the previous two years on both sides of golf’s great divide, it was extraordinary to think that Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy – the four biggest personalities involved – had all been blindsided by the move.

“A great day in global golf for players and fans alike. The journey continues,” Norman told his followers on social media. Mickelson tweeted: “An awesome day today.”

Rory McIlroy felt like a sacrificial lamb after Jay Monahan's betrayal.

Monahan, meanwhile, hot-footed to Toronto to brief players in a specially convened gathering at the Canadian Open. ‘It was a tough meeting for both sides,’ former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy told NBC. “Nobody knows what it’s really going to look like in the end. One of the feelings here is the players just want the [PGA Tour] loyal players rewarded. . . . I don’t know if it’s all going to be happy families.”

The meeting, involving around 100 players, was heated. The lowly ranked Grayson Murray told McIlroy to “fuck off” when the Northern Irishman suggested that the best way to improve his lot was “to play better”. However, at the end of the meeting, relations were cordial between the two players.

Nevertheless, there was plenty of anger among rank-and-file PGA Tour members. Canadian star Mackenzie Hughes tweeted: “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with”. Collin Morikawa, the 2021 Open champion, expressed similar sentiments.

Weeks later, Monahan admitted he had been too hasty. “My biggest regret was not being more patient on June 5,” he said at a news conference. He wished he had gone to Toronto to inform players prior to the rollout and sitting with Yasir in that New York TV studio.

In the immediate aftermath, up-and-coming Englishman Callum Tarren told the Golf Channel: “The guys who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour, it’s kind of a kick in the teeth to them. Obviously Rory [McIlroy] was a huge advocate of the PGA Tour, and now it kind of looks like all his hard work and sticking up for the PGA Tour was left by the wayside.”

Jay Monahan has faced calls to resign.

Golf’s establishment, which felt it was on the right side of history until this deal was struck, was stunned and in some quarters furious. Former tour player and outspoken pundit Brandel Chamblee told Golf Channel viewers: “I think this is one of the saddest days in the history of professional golf. I do believe that the governing bodies, the professional entities, have sacrificed their principles for profit.”

The deal also caused concern in the corridors of American power. Senator Chris Murphy, the Democrat representative for Connecticut, referred to his recent meeting with PGA Tour bosses when he tweeted: “So weird. PGA officials were in my office just months ago talking about how the Saudis’ human rights record should disqualify them from having a stake in a major American sport. I guess maybe their concerns weren’t really about human rights?”

Mistakes and missed opportunities

LIV stopped reporting their viewing figures in May 2023. This implied they were so poor on the CW Network that there was nothing to be gained from sharing the information. Coverage of their penultimate event in Saudi Arabia was shown on tape delay in the USA, where viewers are expected to pay for their YouTube coverage. Live action was available on the LIV Plus app for free worldwide, but its impact has been difficult to measure.

Daring to be different has certainly been one of the hallmarks of LIV Golf. Their team formats have yet to realize the investment envisaged to provide a return on the billions plowed into the project. But the format has its merits and the end-of-season Team Championship provides LIV Golf, perhaps, with its most compelling form.

And shotgun starts. With players starting simultaneously all around the course, it shows it is possible to broadcast golf in a shorter, more manageable window. “They were bold,” said former manager and tournament promoter Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler to me. I was remembering the late referee John Paramor.

In about 2008 he stopped us from having a shotgun start at the Belfry after a fog delay. He said, “That’s not golf”. Now shotgun starts are there aren’t they? The weather-affected Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the autumn of 2023 was only completed because a shotgun start was used for what proved the third and final round at Carnoustie. That tournament was also shortened to 54 holes.

Chubby Chandler believes Keith Pelley and the DP World Tour made a mistake by not partnering with the Saudis earlier.

Chandler insists great opportunities were missed by the golf establishment when the offer of Saudi money first arrived. “LIV should have been the European Tour with 10 designated events inside the tour,” he told me. “They should have had ten $20m events on the European Tour and on the same week they should have played for two and a half million in smaller tournaments for the lads who didn’t get in it. That would have worked. You could have had those 10 events in all the right places, like Australia.”

There persists a feeling that the bitterness and rancor could have been avoided if the main tours had been more receptive, starting with Gardiner’s Premier Golf League proposals. “In hindsight, one of the [PGA] tour’s biggest mistakes throughout all this was not just to ignore the Premier Golf League group but to really go out of their way to not take a meeting,” leading golf observer Geoff Shackleford said to me.

“Had they done that, who knows, maybe something happens? Instead it opens the door for the Saudi element to lose patience.” He told me that by “doing their own thing” it has been “a disaster for the tours”. He added: “They should have taken a meeting and they should have been more open to the franchise concept.”

LIV Golf has expanded to 13 teams of four for the 2024 season.

Shackleford, whose coverage of Andrew Gardiner’s efforts to transform the professional game has always been sympathetic, believes mistakes were made on all sides. He believes the franchise concept for team golf has been left in tatters.

“Andy’s approach was to build slowly, start with players and then franchises,” the American blogger and podcaster told me. “There would be an identity created in that team. But LIV comes along, takes the concept and gives these teams horrible names. And now I don’t see the franchise concept being as attractive because of the way they forced it.”

Giles Morgan agrees. “The way that LIV has done it looks very odd to me,” he said. “I don’t feel like I could belong to one of their teams. The commitment of the golfer to a brand [equipment manufacturer] is absolutely huge, and that’s like motorsport. Fandom is like a feudal army, it’s that you belong somewhere. Look at the Ryder Cup; it works. Give me something to hang my hat on.”

These extracts are taken from Golf Wars by Iain Carter. TG readers can enjoy 25 percent off Golf Wars when you order on Bloomsbury.com. Enter code ‘GOLFWARSTG25’ at checkout to redeem this offer. RRP £20.

Golf Wars, by Iain Carter, is out now, RRP £20.

About the author

Today's Golfer features editor Michael Catling.

Michael Catling – Features Editor

Michael Catling is an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.

Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with the game’s biggest names, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, Martin Slumbers and Justin Thomas.

Get in touch with Michael via email and follow him on X.

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