PGA Tour/LIV unity good for golf: McIlroy Rory McIlroy

NEW YORK. — The new partnership between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit will ultimately be good for professional golf, world number three Rory McIlroy said yesterday.

McIlroy, speaking during his pre-tournament news conference ahead of this week’s Canadian Open, said he knew discussions between the organisations were going on but did not expect a deal to happen so quickly.

“I think ultimately when I try remove myself from the situation and I look at the bigger picture and I look at 10 years down the line I think ultimately this is going to be good for the game of professional golf,” said McIlroy.

“I think it unifies it and it secures its financial future. There’s mixed emotions in there as well.”

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, a four-time major champion, was speaking a day after the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV circuit, who have been involved in a bitter fight that has split the sport, announced a shock agreement to merge and form one unified commercial entity.

The stunning announcement on Tuesday of a merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf could generate higher viewership, and loftier costs, for advertisers and sponsors to reach golf audiences, marketing experts said.

The move ends a bitter legal battle between the organisations that has split the golf world and its top players.

“It’s good for the game,” said Neal Pilson, founder of Pilson Communications and former president of CBS Sports, calling the merger “among the top two or three surprises I’ve experienced.”

Sponsors and advertisers “will have the ability to benefit from increased viewership given the worldwide publicity this settlement will create,” he said.

Golf’s popularity has been surging in the United States, where last year it was a $102 billion industry, up 20 per cent from 2016, according to the National Golf Foundation.

The organisations said on Tuesday they will work to allow a process for LIV Golf players to reapply for membership on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

The potential for top players to compete on other tour events will help boost ratings, experts said.

The final round of the 2023 Masters Tournament drew an average of 12 million viewers on CBS.

It is unclear how broadcasting rights for the TV networks that sell commercial time during golf events could change in the long term. The CW network, which airs LIV Golf in the US, said there is no change to the event schedule in 2023, while NBC Sports, which airs some PGA Tour events, said it was still learning about the announcement.

The CW network is owned by Nexstar Media Group NXST.O and NBC Sports is a division of NBCUniversal which is owned by Comcast CMCSA.O.

The deal could also mean higher costs for television commercials and sponsorship deals because the new entity will be “the only game in town” for golf events, said Michael Goldman, a sports marketing and management professor at the University of San Francisco.

While many details of the new commercial entity are yet to be determined, it could result in a global set of sponsors across the organisation, in addition to another roster of sponsors each for the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, said Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ultimately, the merger is likely to create more marketing opportunities for brands, Pilson said. — Reuters.

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