PGA’s Monahan describes ‘constructive’ meeting with Saudi leader of LIV Golf

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf funders took a step toward what could be a union of the rival golf leagues. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan met with the Saudi leader of LIV recently.



March 20, 2024 - 1:47 PM

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan addresses the media during a news conference prior to the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images/TNS)

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — The PGA Tour took a first step in sparking negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund with a meeting in the Bahamas that Commissioner Jay Monahan described as “constructive” without offering many more details.

In a memo late Monday night to players, Monahan said the player directors on the PGA Tour Enterprises board met with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund that provides the money behind rival LIV Golf.

It was the first time player directors, including Tiger Woods, met with Al-Rumayyan. Woods played nine holes with him at Albany Golf Club, according to a person informed of the meeting who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the day.

The other player directors are Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson and Peter Malnati. Golfweek first reported the meeting was likely to take place Monday in Ponte Vedra Beach. It shifted to the Bahamas, where Woods often keeps his yacht.

“The conversation throughout was constructive and represents an important part of our due diligence process in selecting potential investors for PGA Tour Enterprises,” Monahan said in the memo. “This mirrors the approach we employed earlier this year as we evaluated an investment offer from the Strategic Sports Group.”

The PGA Tour, European tour and PIF reached an agreement announced June 6 to form a commercial partnership. The deal was to be finalized by the end of 2023. But amid government inquiries, and interest from private equity groups, the deal wasn’t done.

The PGA Tour selected SSG, a consortium of U.S. sports owners, in December. A month later, SSG pledged an initial $1.5 billion investment, which could increase to $3 billion. The next step is getting PIF as a minority investor or risk more players defecting to LIV Golf.

As the tour was negotiating with U.S. private equity, LIV Golf lured Masters champion Jon Rahm, along with Tyrrell Hatton, in a move that took more big names away from the PGA Tour and further splintered the golf landscape.

“During the session, Yasir had the chance to introduce himself to our player directors and talk through his vision, priorities and motivations for investing in professional golf,” Monahan said.

He told players he would keep them updated as much as possible, “but please understand that we need to maintain our position of not conducting negotiations in public.”

Malnati had said over the weekend there was “massive resistance” to Saudi involvement because of the surprise June 6 announcement — Monahan, board members Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne were the only ones involved.

“As I’ve learned more, I think I understand better and I’m very open-minded to learning what involvement they want, what they want out of this and how they think they can help,” Malnati said. “On the surface, I think there are players who have resistance to that relationship, for sure. So that’s why I do think it’s important that maybe our next step is to meet at some point.”

Cantlay said without PIF investing in PGA Tour Enterprises, he could see golf going down a path of two rival leagues whose top players meet only four times a year at the majors.

Rory McIlroy is no longer on the board, giving up his seat in November and since being replaced by Spieth. He is among those who have met with Al-Rumayyan. McIlroy had said on a British soccer podcast at the start of the year that he returned from his visit and encouraged the tour to meet with the Saudi leader behind LIV Golf.

“I don’t think this is an overnight solution,” McIlroy said. “But if we can get the investment in, then at least we can start working towards a compromise where we’re not going to make everyone happy, but at least make everyone understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.”