Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I can’t believe the PGA Tour–LIV news broke right after yesterday’s newsletter went out.
In today’s SI:AM:
🏌️♂️ The PGA Tour ends LIV
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It was always about the money
It’s difficult to remember a development in sports as shocking as the PGA Tour’s announcement yesterday morning that it would merge with LIV Golf. From the moment players began defecting to LIV one year ago this week, the Tour’s stance toward the Saudi-backed, would-be rival appeared to never change. Players who jumped to LIV were viewed as traitors, while those who remained with the PGA preached the importance of loyalty. LIV was mocked for playing sparsely attended, truncated events at less-than-stellar courses that hardly anyone watched at home on TV.
And now they’re joining forces?
Yesterday’s announcement came out of seemingly nowhere to just about everybody—even the players. LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman was also kept in the dark, learning of the merger only minutes before the news was made public. (The controversial Norman isn’t expected to be part of the unified PGA-LIV venture, Bob Harig reports.)
LIV players—like Phil Mickelson—are understandably thrilled. They might get to return to a unified world golf tour after being told repeatedly over the past year that jumping to LIV meant they’d never be welcomed back. And PGA Tour players are understandably upset that LIV players could be welcomed back into the fold. They turned down big paydays from the Saudis to remain loyal to the Tour, and now the players who took those LIV checks might not suffer long-term consequences for doing so. (LIV players are reportedly expected to pay a fine to get their Tour cards back.)
It’s easy to look at yesterday’s news, particularly because the two sides chose to frame it as a “merger,” and get the impression that LIV “won” its years-long battle with the PGA Tour. But Michael Rosenberg has a slightly different spin on it:
This is shocking news to most people in golf, but it’s not a shock to [PGA Tour commissioner Jay] Monahan. He has thought it through. And while it sure looks like the PGA Tour sold its players out by merging with LIV, there is another way to look at it:
In one move, Monahan brought in billions and killed LIV Golf.
He is going to sell that to his players as a huge win. They’re bewildered now and might not buy it. But look: For all the talk about a “merger,” the truth is that LIV Golf, as we knew it, is folding. The Saudi Arabian royal family is diverting its funding to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
It may take some time for PGA Tour players to see it that way. Monahan held a meeting with the players at the Canadian Open yesterday in Toronto that one unnamed player described as “a s---show,” according to John Schwarb.
It’ll also be difficult for golf fans to accept Monahan’s decision. The problem people had with LIV Golf wasn’t just that it was taking some of the most recognizable names in the sport in an effort to destabilize the PGA Tour, it was that the money was directly from the government of a country accused of all sorts of human rights abuses that was now using sports in an attempt to launder its global image. Now that money—via Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund—will be funneled directly to the PGA Tour. Players previously had the ability to decide whether they felt comfortable taking that money from LIV. Now they’ll all be complicit if the framework of this merger actually comes to fruition.
Monahan likely thinks players will warm to the idea of the infusion of Saudi cash when they hear how it will benefit them personally, which Rosenberg believes is “a big, soulless bet”:
Monahan has claimed the moral high ground regularly in the past year, a stance of convenience that makes it hard for anybody with a conscience to look at him the same way again. He was desperate. He grossly underestimated the LIV threat until several stars bolted last year, then used every possible weapon and argument to save his tour and job. Now he is counting on players who backed him to ignore his shameless public fraudulence.
Golf isn’t the first sport the Saudis have sunk their virtually endless cash reserves into, and it likely won’t be the last. The country already pays WWE $100 million per year to hold events there and is now focused on bringing in some of the biggest names in world soccer. French striker Karim Benzema just signed with Al-Ittihad of the Saudi Pro League on a two-year contract worth over $400 million. Golfers are now in line for similarly increased paydays, but are they willing to deal with the strings attached?
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- Greg Bishop looked back at the mayhem that followed the Nuggets’ loss to the Nets in the last ABA finals, in 1976.
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- Marlins infielder Luis Arraez raised his batting average to .401 with two more hits last night.
- The Dallas Morning News reported Rangers ace Jacob deGrom will undergo Tommy John surgery.
- With the NBA Finals all tied up, fans are clamoring for tickets to tonight’s Game 3. Seats to Miami’s Kaseya Center are topping out at nearly $10,000, per SI Tickets.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. Aliyah Boston’s first double double as a pro in her sixth WNBA game.
4. Padres prospect Ethan Salas’s first professional home run. He turned 17 on June 1.
3. Über prospect Elly De La Cruz’s first MLB hit, a long double where he showed off his excellent speed.
2. Josh Donaldson’s quick reaction to field a grounder while fiddling with the PitchCom speaker in his hat.
1. Álvaro Barreal’s flawless volley for FC Cincinnati.
Who is the oldest player in MLB history to pick up an extra-base hit? (Today is the anniversary of the achievement.)
- Jamie Moyer
- Julio Franco
- Matt Stairs
- Jack Quinn
Yesterday’s SIQ: On June 6, 2013, the Astros selected Mark Appel with the first pick in the MLB draft after a dominant three-year career at which school?
- Florida State
Answer: Stanford. Appel had been taken by the Pirates with the eighth pick in the previous year’s draft but turned down a $3.8 million signing bonus and returned to school. Appel told SI’s George Dohrmann before his senior year that he decided to go back to Stanford to try to reach the College World Series and so that he could earn his degree. The gamble paid off. After another excellent season, the Astros took Appel with the first pick in the 2013 draft and gave him a signing bonus of $6.35 million.
Appel had a solid debut pro season, but things quickly went sideways. He had an appendectomy just before the start of the 2014 season and then was hampered by tendinitis in his pitching thumb early in the season. He had a 6.91 ERA across two levels that season. After an average ’15 season, he was traded to the Phillies and pitched two more injury-plagued seasons before retiring at age 26.
But Appel decided to attempt a comeback in 2021 and returned to the Phillies’ minor league system. After a strong start to the season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, Appel was called up to finally make his big league debut in June of last year, just shy of his 31st birthday. Appel avoided the dubious distinction of becoming the third No. 1 draft pick in MLB history not to appear in a big league game.
He was effective in six relief appearances, allowing two runs in 10⅓ innings. The Phillies cut him after a lousy spring training this year, but he’ll always be able to say he made the majors.