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PGA of America CEO Was No Fan of LIV Before the Merger Announcement

In an April interview, Seth Waugh was critical of the Saudi-backed tour.

Yes, the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf have agreed to merge, but clearly there is still much sorting through and figuring out to do. That includes reconciling some formerly not-on-the-same-page perspective from a number of the parties involved, including Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America.

In an interview with me in April at the Sportico Bruin sports conference in Kiawah, South Carolina, I asked Waugh about LIV. He told me, “If this was a better idea, we’d be all for it. Frankly, we just don’t think it is.”

Waugh didn’t respond to a request to update his comments in light of the deal.

The PGA and LIV had been at loggerheads since LIV launched last year, suing and counter suing each other, but shocked the golf world Tuesday when they announced they were merging into a new entity and would end all litigation. 

The PGA Tour, which runs the professional golf tour in the U.S., has been headed by Commissioner Jay Monahan who will become CEO of the yet-to-be-named, newly-merged golf league. The PGA Tour was spun off from the PGA of America, which represents the sport’s 28,000 club professionals, in 1968. PGA of America also runs the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. Waugh has been CEO since 2018.

“In some ways, [LIV] is a compliment to the game,” Waugh told me. “[We] have lived in a world of disruption our whole life. You disrupt or you or you go backward. The thing you need to disrupt, however, is a better product, or a better price, or both, and I don’t think this is a better product.”

Other issues that Waugh saw with LIV were that, “the team aspect of it really hasn’t taken off.” And that it “wasn’t a sustainable business model.”

Write to Andy Serwer at andy.serwer@barrons.com and follow our interview series At Barron’s on YouTube here