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After publicly feuding for a year, PGA Tour and LIV Golf merge

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sports fans were rocked today with news of a merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. The two sides have been feuding for the past year after LIV Golf elbowed its way into the sport, luring away top PGA Tour players with big paychecks. LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. It has faced allegations of using sports to try to repair a global image of human rights abuses, what some call sportswashing. And now LIV and the PGA Tour are business partners. Brendan Porath is co-host of the "Shotgun Start" golf podcast. Hey there. Welcome.

BRENDAN PORATH: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey.

PORATH: Appreciate it.

KELLY: Tell us a little more about the deal. Are we looking at just one ginormous league now?

PORATH: We are looking at one ginormous entity. It's quite murky right now. There's not a lot of details of what kind of league will come of this. It does seem the word merger is doing a lot of work here and with so few details. And the timing of this is a little peculiar with so few details. Were they rushed? Was someone going to break this story? They don't have a name for it yet. So it seems like they came out with this sooner than they wanted to. But what we have is an entity that is an LLC, that is a combination of Saudi investment and the existing PGA Tour and DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour. The PGA Tour will continue as it was, a 501(c)(6), a nonprofit. It will operate its events, and then there will be this separate entity with Saudi money. Whether that's LIV Golf in a year or two is to be seen. But, again, I don't think we're getting a super-league here. I think...

KELLY: Right.

PORATH: ...The PGA Tour is acquiring Saudi funding.

KELLY: OK. So it sounds like lots of funding details for the accountants to be...

PORATH: Right.

KELLY: ...Looking at. What are you hearing from players? Do they think this is good news?

PORATH: Depends on what side of the split you are on. I think PGA Tour players are furious. They're blindsided. One of the big revelations this day was just how secretive it was. It does not seem like even the highest-level tour players, who were very involved in sort of the response to LIV and the reimagining of the PGA Tour in the last year, had any idea this was coming. On the LIV side, it sounds like Greg Norman, the CEO, was told right before the announcement came out this morning. So the players on the PGA Tour are furious. They've stood on their principles or stated principles and not taken this Saudi money or the temptation of Saudi money, passing up...

KELLY: Yeah, I'm thinking of big stars like Rory McIlroy. He's one of the people you're talking about - right? - defended the tour, opted...

PORATH: Rory...

KELLY: ...Not to take this fat deal with LIV Golf.

PORATH: Yes. Rory McIlroy passed up an upfront sum of - it could have been 400, $500 million to - because he did not like where the money was from and he wanted to defend the status quo and sort of the principles of that status quo. And he took a lot of arrows from many critics and many of his former colleagues who went to LIV Golf. He was the defender, and he took a lot of that heat. And now all of a sudden, he's passed up that upfront money, which is admirable, whether you think - you know, whether it's for his bank account or not.

KELLY: Yeah.

PORATH: And he's also lost the larger battle. They end up in bed with the Saudi money anyways. So...

KELLY: What about...

PORATH: It's really - they're furious.

KELLY: Forgive my jumping in. It sounds like so many details still murky. But for players, do we know what the impact - if I like to watch golf, how is this going to affect me?

PORATH: I don't think it will affect you much in the instant at all. I do think the PGA Tour will continue as it always has been, just with more money, larger purses. And the Saudis have a seat at the table now. And that's what they've been going for forever, whether that's through LIV Golf, which I don't know will continue - but they will have a seat at the table with this larger PGA Tour partnership and entity.

KELLY: Brendan Porath, co-host of the "Shotgun Start" podcast. Thanks so much.

PORATH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLENDED BABIES' "REALLY...") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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