Golf’s Big Deal Veers Off Course

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The Masters tournament should be all about sport, but the unresolved fight between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf looms over the competition.

A man in a white shirt, black pants and a white hat holds a golf club.
Jon Rahm won the 2023 Masters but defected to LIV Golf in December, dealing a big blow to the PGA Tour.Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Masters is a tournament steeped in tradition and hosts one of sports’ most storied gatherings: the champions dinner, when former winners meet at Augusta National Golf Club, and the previous year’s winner sets the menu.

But this week’s dinner was overshadowed by the fight between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series that has split the sport. Last June, the two sides agreed to combine forces and end their battle. A deal hasn’t materialized — and possibly never will.

The only certainties, according to insiders who have spoken to DealBook, are that a final agreement isn’t imminent after a series of deadlines have come and gone. The players, who have become more powerful than ever, want an agreement. And whatever happens between the PGA and LIV may permanently shape the future of professional sports.

The Masters and the dinner highlight the schism. The 2023 winner, Jon Rahm, designed a menu that reflected his roots in the Basque region of northern Spain. There was, however, a bitter taste to his triumphant return: He quit the PGA Tour for LIV almost four months ago.

It took a legend of the sport, the two-time Masters winner Tom Watson, to take on the issue that was on everyone’s minds. “Ain’t it good to be together again?” he recounted telling them at a news conference two days later. “I hope that the players themselves took that to say, you know, we have to do something. We have to do something.”

The tours haven’t been sitting back. LIV is confident that more players will follow after Rahm’s defection.

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