Falling out of LIV? Two-in-five PGA fans say they will watch less if professional golf merger passes, few will watch more

Falling out of LIV? Two-in-five PGA fans say they will watch less if professional golf merger passes, few will watch more

Plurality of Canadian golf viewers oppose Saudi-funded merger; most say commissioner should resign

June 20, 2023 – A deal that would see the PGA Tour come together under one umbrella with the upstart, Saudi-backed LIV Golf has major hurdles to pass – including an antitrust review within the American Department of Justice. And even if the deal does go through, the PGA may have more issues to contend with, including backlash from fans.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadian golf fans viewing the merger, which would bring the PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and Europe’s DP World Tour together, as sub-par.

Indeed, among those who follow the PGA, 43 per cent oppose the deal, significantly outpacing those who support it (25%). Notably, one-in-three (32%) are unsure how to feel about the recently-announced agreement, which caught many, including players, off guard. The most avid golf fans – those who follow the PGA “very closely” – are divided about the LIV-PGA merger. Two-in-five support it, and two-in-five oppose it.

Asked whether this would affect their viewership going forward – assuming the deal is passed – most Canadian golf fans (59%) say they would watch the same amount with or without the merger. That said, a significant portion of the game’s fanbase is turned off by this proposed merger. One-quarter (23%) say they’ll be less likely to tune in, while 14 per cent say they won’t watch at all. One-in-eight (13%) among the most avid group of fans say they’ll be more likely to tune out, alongside three-in-ten who follow the PGA closely (30%).

With the PGA already commanding a more niche audience than major sports in Canada, this remonstrance from core fans could prove injurious, at least in the short term.

More Key Findings:

  • Three-in-five PGA fans (62%) say commissioner Jay Monahan should resign, after repeatedly criticizing LIV Golf publicly over the past year, for the Saudi connections to human rights abuses and 9/11, before negotiating a deal with the Saudi group behind closed doors. Those who follow the PGA Tour most closely are most likely to hold this view (70%).
  • Just one-in-five PGA fans (20%) say they have followed the LIV tour since it began operating tournaments in June 2022.
  • Looking more broadly at golf in Canada, one-in-five Canadians (22%) say they golf regularly, at least one to three times a year. This includes 32 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women.


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.


Part One: Golf in Canada

Part Two: The PGA and LIV Golf

  • Two-thirds of PGA watchers following LIV-merger

  • One-quarter support the deal, two-in-five oppose it

  • Most say Monahan should step down as PGA commissioner

  • Viewership more likely to be hurt than helped by merger


Part One: Golf in Canada

Golf is a much more niche sport in Canada than the traditional “big four” of hockey, football, baseball, and basketball. Gone are the days of the “Tiger Boom”, but the PGA does maintain a significant audience in the country, with one-in-eight adults (12%) saying the follow the tour closely, and another one-quarter (24%) keeping up to date with the big tournaments and news.

Generation and gender are both key factors in understanding the PGA’s demographic landscape. Men of all ages are more likely than women to follow the Tour, while those over the age of 54 are most engaged:

While 12 per cent say they follow the PGA closely even more Canadians have a relationship with golf through playing the game. One-in-five (22%) Canadian adults say they golf at least a few times a year, while three-in-five have done so at least once:

As one might anticipate, interest in the PGA is correlated heavily with the activity of golf, but it is not entirely a necessary variable. Many Canadians golf or have golfed in the past and say they pay little or no attention to the professional tour. For example, three-in-ten (31%) of those who golf one to three times a year say they pay no attention at all to the PGA (see detailed tables).

Part Two: The PGA and LIV Golf

The merger announcement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, a new league funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund that first teed off last June to take on the PGA’s dominance of professional golf, caught many by surprise. That includes PGA Tour members, many of whom had forgone lucrative offers to leave the Tour for LIV events. The coming together followed a year of acrimony, including player bans, legal challenges, and much verbal sparring.

Two-third of PGA watchers following LIV-merger

Only one-in-ten (10%) Canadian PGA followers say they have heard nothing of the merger, including one-in-seven (14%) among casual followers. A majority of casual fans (58%) say they have had conversations about the LIV-PGA merger, while the tour’s biggest supporters (63%) say they’ve been following the merger very closely:

One-quarter support the deal, two-in-five oppose it

While the PGA Tour will continue as a non-profit organization, the announced merger will see its commercial and business rights owned by a new for-profit entity alongside LIV and the commercial rights of the DP World Tour. For now, the PGA Tour and LIV will continue to operate separate events, but that might change in the future.

The deal has some legal hurdles to clear. The U.S. Department of Justice antitrust division has said it will review the deal after several senators requested that the DOJ to look into it. This is an extension of an investigation that began when LIV sued the PGA Tour on antitrust grounds.

One-quarter (25%) of Canadian PGA fans support the merger. More than two-in-five (43%) oppose it. Though support is higher among more tuned-in PGA fans, it tops out at two-in-five among the closest watchers, among whom a similar number remain opposed:

Most say Monahan should step down as PGA commissioner

PGA Tour pros who forwent the opportunity to join LIV for massive payouts are perhaps the most aggrieved party in all this. Prior to the merger, the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan took a hardline against LIV, calling attention to the poor human rights record of Saudi Arabia as well as insinuating that players who left PGA for LIV were supporting people who were connected to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. PGA Tour golfers have said they felt betrayed after Monahan and the PGA took such a moral stand against LIV, going as far as saying he didn’t believe LIV and the PGA Tour could coexist and “it’s not in the cards” for the two to come together.

A majority (62%) of PGA Tour fans want Monahan to resign after what transpired, while 12 per cent disagree and felt he did the best he could with the situation:

Viewership more likely to be hurt than helped by merger

A deal largely about dollars and cents will ultimately be proven successful when measured in eyeballs. The PGA seeks financial stability while the Saudi regime seeks diversification and validation. Both of which are dependent upon continuing attention to the game. The Canadian market, though smaller than global powerhouses in Europe and the United States, is valuable to both the PGA and to the golf marketplace more broadly in this country. Canada is home to myriad world class golf courses and an industry worth a reported $4 billion.

Overall, three-in-five (59%) Canadian golf fans say that this merger will have no real impact on their engagement with the PGA. That said, one-quarter say they’ll watch less (23%) while 14 per cent say they won’t watch at all if it goes through:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from June 13-16, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 2,624 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by awareness, golf participation and merger support, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here

To read the questionnaire in English and French, click here.

Image – Markus Spiske/Unsplash


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org

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