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Can the PGA Tour and LIV … negotiate? Davis Love III says that’s impossible.
Davis Love III is maybe like you, should you have at least a passing interest in the fight that it is PGA Tour v. LIV Golf. To recap, the upstart, Saudi-backed latter has played three events, Tour members have been suspended for playing in them, 10 of those players have filed a lawsuit against the Tour for anticompetitive practices and restraint of trade, and three of those golfers filed for — and on Tuesday, failed to earn — a temporary restraining order in order to play in the start of the Tour’s playoffs. That’s a lot, though you probably have little idea what could come next.
You’re also not alone.
“Well, look, as I said a year ago, I would have said don’t worry about it,” Love said this week on the No Laying Up podcast. “Now you say, what’s next. I have no idea. I haven’t seen this movie before. We don’t know what’s going to happen. And it’s frightening. It’s disheartening.”
In speaking of the big picture, Love has a point. Concretely, we now know that no LIV players will play in the Tour’s three playoff events, all over the next three weeks, and LIV will play the fourth of its eight events the week after that, on Labor Day weekend. And LIV and the Tour will play events next year. We also know, on the court side, that the antitrust trial could start as early as fall 2023. But what the landscape looks like until then — after all, other Tour players will likely switch sides, and the sparring will continue — is unknown, as is what pro golf could evolve into after any trial.
But could the sides ever negotiate? Podcast host Chris Solomon wisely asked Love the question — and it’s here where we’ll tell you that the entire show is worth your time — and Love had no doubts in this scenario.
In a word, no.
“We can’t sit down with guys that are wanting to compete against our model, because they don’t want — if they were saying, hey, we just want to get along, we’ll play outside the U.S., how can we make this system work,” Love said on the podcast. “Greg Norman flat-out will say … we want to shake up the golf world, we want to take over. And behind the scenes, they’re saying to players, we’re going to own the PGA Tour. You will see going forward in this Tour case, you know, their strategy is not to co-exist.
“So to your question before: Could the Tour see it coming, yeah, they’ve seen the real intentions coming for a long time, a lot clearer than me. When I talk to Tiger [Woods], when I talk to Rory [McIlroy], I go, ohhhh, I didn’t see that part of it. So there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and reasons why — leave the Saudis out of it; it doesn’t matter whose three billion dollars it is; if they want to take over the PGA Tour and have us be a feeder system, we’ll pick guys out of college, we’ll pick guys off the PGA Tour and then we’ll have the best golf product in the world. Well, why wouldn’t we defend it? I don’t think we should sit down with them, especially not with [LIV CEO] Greg Norman.”
There’s a good deal to unpack there, and maybe it’s best to start by saying that Norman has said, at least publicly, that he believes the Tour and LIV can play together. In that scenario, and we’ll take any LIV player as an example, he would play in all 14 of LIV’s events next year — which will include several in North America — and then pick and choose a handful of PGA Tour events to complete his schedule. Love knows what the Tour would look like in this case.
Still, let’s also say this could work in some scenario. It’s here where the conversation turns to media rights, and GOLF’s James Colgan expertly broke this down earlier this week. To sum things up in a few sentences, the Tour sells the exclusive right to broadcast its events to networks, who in turn pay a large sum to the Tour, and players agree “not to play in, and thereby contribute their media rights to, non-Tour golf events held in North America that conflict with PGA Tour events,” according to the Tour’s court filing from this week. Meanwhile, LIV, as Colgan described, will argue the Tour’s media rights rules were created with the intent of suppressing meaningful competition, refusing players the right to compete as they wish and, in turn, harming the growth potential of an upstart league.
It’s all murky, big money is at the root, and the case will eventually be determined in court, though each proceeding and verbal jab and player defection, you would think, make it more and more unlikely for a compromise. Then again, you never know. And Love will be watching.
But back to him. You may also be wondering why Love has been so vocal on the issue — last week, at the Wyndham Championship, he spoke of a potential player boycott of events should LIV win, and he also appeared on a Fire Pit Collective podcast — and it’s a question Solomon also asked. For one, the 21-time Tour winner is this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup captain and a host of the Tour’s RSM Classic, so he has a business interest.
But on the podcast, Love says it’s more than that.
“I’m not saying the PGA Tour does everything right,” he said. “But somebody has to defend our rights and what’s right for the game, and good for the game is a great term. So am I sticking my neck out more than anybody’s ever seen me? Yeah, because I want to — Tiger can’t say what he thinks sometimes and can’t stick his neck out. I can stick my neck out. I can’t get hurt in this. But yes, I’m giving back. I’ve been blessed. …
“I’m defending the process that I know works. So if I overstep, Jay [Monahan, Tour commissioner] will tell me I’ve overstepped. It’s kind of like being in the Army or the Marines — I’m protecting my people as much as I can.”