PGA Tour kicks off in Hawaii amidst twists and turns with LIV Golf. GETTY IMAGES

The PGA Tour's new 2024 season kicks off this Thursday after six months of negotiations with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund and other investors over a possible merger of the world's premier golf circuit. The aim is to prevent an exodus to other structures.

The last semester, and especially the last month of 2023, have been complicated by negotiations to bring LIV Golf and its Saudi sponsors into the PGA Tour structure.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who has been criticised by many players for keeping the details of the merger talks with LIV secret, had set a deadline for the negotiations to be completed before the end of 2023, which has not happened. Although no agreement has been reached, the negotiations are still ongoing, according to the latest communication from the end of last year.

Naturally, these back-and-forths and, above all, the lack of information provided to the main protagonists, the players, have created profound uncertainty amidst the controversy over a potential merger with LIV Golf's Saudi sponsors looming over the PGA Tour in the United States.

The 2024 season kicks off on Thursday in Hawaii (United States). The PGA Tournament of Champions, now called The Sentry, will once again be held at Kapalua (in Maui County, which was devastated by wildfires following last August's tragedy).

This year sees the PGA Tour return to the calendar year format. The series is still reeling from the surprise announcement last June of a framework agreement to merge with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) and the DP World Tour.

Reigning Masters champion, Jon Rahm of Barrika, Spain, who won the Kapalua crown at Kapalua last year, will not be defending his title after joining LIV last month in return for substantial financial guarantees. The idea of returning to the calendar year format is the possibility to attract the best talent from the PGA before LIV's season-opening tournaments next month in Mayakoba, Mexico, and Las Vegas during Super Bowl week.

As negotiations between PGA and PIF officials have failed to reach a successful conclusion, it is still unknown, in case of a merger, what the long-awaited unified PGA-LIV structure will look like in the event of a merger. As a result, the 2024 seasons will start separately.

Tiger Woods, considered by many to be the greatest player in history, winner of 15 majors and a member of the Tour Policy Board that must approve any deal with LIV, said last month that he was "pleased with the process and how it has evolved" in talks with the PIF but was frustrated by the slowness. 

"I am confident that somehow an agreement will be reached. We are working together. We are trying to come to an agreement for the benefit of the tour and all the parties involved," said the Californian, who ranks alongside Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as one of the greatest players in history.

Other notable events, with limited fields and higher prizes, include Pebble Beach, Riviera, Bay Hill, the Heritage a week after the Masters, Quail Hollow, and the Memorial Tournament and Travelers Championship in the weeks before and after the US Open.

For now, the only events where the LIV and PGA rivals will compete are the majors, including this year's Masters from 11-14 April at Augusta National, the PGA Championship at Valhalla from 16-19 May, the US Open at Pinehurst from 13-16 June and the British Open at Royal Troon from 18-21 July.