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PGA Tour and LIV Golf Merger: What's in it for Airlines?

PGA Tour and LIV Golf Merger: What's in it for Airlines?


On June 6, the PGA Tour agreed to merge with its rival LIV Golf in one of the most significant changes to ever happen in the sport. The merger would combine the two leagues into a new for-profit company that has not yet been named. DP World Tour - also known as the PGA European Tour - is additionally expected to be part of the new entity.


LIV Golf was created in 2022 by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans to overhaul the Saudi economy. One component of his Vision 2030 plan is to facilitate the growth of new industries that can help reduce the country's reliance on oil production.




Sports is one of the industries that Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in in recent years. However, LIV Golf has run into some hurdles since the PGA Tour did not want another league to challenge its dominance in golf. The "war" between the two leagues went as follows:


  • The PGA Tour responded to the creation of LIV Golf by banning players who decided to leave the PGA Tour for the rival league.
  • LIV Golf then sued the PGA Tour for anti-competitive behavior.
  • Finally, the PGA Tour sued LIV Golf for making competition more difficult.


All of these legal disputes will be dropped now that the two leagues are combining into one entity.


Photo: Peter Lam | AeroXplorer


The creation of the new entity is expected to lead to significant changes in terms of the airlines that sponsor golf tournaments. The PGA Tour is currently sponsored by United Airlines while the DP World Tour is sponsored by Emirates. LIV Golf does not receive any sponsorship from the aviation industry.


In November 2022, the PGA Tour announced a multi-year deal with United Airlines that would see the continuation of their partnership. The agreement makes United Airlines the official airline of the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions, and Korn Ferry Tour until 2025.




The deal will additionally provide more than $500,000 in grants annually to 55 golf teams at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to fund recruiting and transportation to golf tournaments. United Airlines will provide a total of $1.5 million in grants to these organizations over the next three years.

Photo: Carter Petershagen | AeroXplorer


The DP World Tour has partnered with Emirates for more than three decades, starting with the Dubai Desert Classic in 1989. In September 2022, the two groups decided to extend their partnership for two additional years. Emirates will remain as the league's official airline until the end of the 2024 season.

Emirates will continue to offer its branding across 21 DP World Tour tournaments and have Official Tournament Partner status at 14 of the league's events each season. The airline will additionally provide the following services to the DP World Tour:


  • Sponsorship of the league's Virtual Eye, which provides real-time positioning and information about player performance and statistics
  • An Emirates Fly Better Moments content strand that showcases exciting moments from the tournaments for fans through the league's digital platforms




Photo: Dylan Campbell | AeroXplorer


It is currently unclear what will happen to the current airline sponsors now that the PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the DP World Tour are merging into one global entity. United Airlines and Emirates renewed their golf sponsorship deals only last year, so these partnerships will be in effect for the next few years. LIV Golf did not yet have an airline sponsor since the league was still establishing itself in the industry.


It is likely that a new carrier will become the official airline of the global golf league. Given that the new entity will receive a large amount of funding from the PIF, there is the possibility that a Saudi airline will become the new sponsor. One possible sponsor could be Riyadh Air, which will be completely owned by PIF once the airline starts operations in 2025.




Alternatively, the entity could partner with a carrier that already has a large footprint in the sports industry. These airlines include Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and Qatar Airways. The advantage in this scenario is that name recognition from other sports could encourage people to become fans of the new golf entity. It will be interesting to see how the league develops over time, especially in terms of its impact on the aviation industry.

George Mwangi
Aviation writer based in Washington, DC. Visited 21 countries on thousands of miles of flights.

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