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PGA Tour, Saudi talks ‘accelerating’: Monahan

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks during a press conference prior to THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 12, 2024 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan said Tuesday talks with the Saudi Arabian backers of LIV Golf were “accelerating” but was tight-lipped on how the proposed joint venture between the two bodies would work.

Speaking to reporters ahead of this week’s Players Championship, Monahan said negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) were progressing.

However Monahan said several “key issues” remained to be resolved and that hammering out a deal would “take time”.

“As I’ve said on a number of occasions, you can’t negotiate a deal like this in public, so I will be brief,” Monahan said.

“I recently met with the governor of the PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and our negotiations are accelerating as we spend time together.

“While we have several key issues that we still need to work through, we have a shared vision to quiet the noise and unlock golf’s worldwide potential.”

The emergence of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, which has lured top PGA Tour players with huge signing on fees and lucrative limited field tournaments, plunged golf into a bitter civil war.

Monahan however shocked the sporting world last June by announcing that the PGA Tour had agreed a tie-up with LIV’s backers, the PIF, in a stunning U-turn that followed secret negotiations.

The precise detail of how the new venture between the PGA Tour and PIF will work remains shrouded in mystery. An initial December 2023 deadline to agree a deal came and went as negotiations continue.

Since then more players have left the PGA Tour to join LIV, most notably Spanish star Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion who opted to join the upstart circuit in December.

‘Real progress’ made 

Monahan, who has faced criticism for his handling of the crisis, declined to comment on the question of whether players who left for LIV would be welcomed back to the PGA Tour.

“Like I said, we’ve made and continue to make real progress in our negotiations and our discussions with the PIF,” Monahan said. “I recognize that this is frustrating for all of you, but it really is not in the best interest of the PGA Tour and our membership and for PIF for me to be talking about where we are with specific elements of our discussions.

“I would just stress the fact that we’re engaged, we’re making progress, but I’m really not at liberty to share any of the details on that front.”

Monahan added however that the eventual goal was to unify the sport so that all of the world’s best players were participating on one circuit.

“As a board and as an organization, we’re committed to trying to get to a place where there is unification,” Monahan said.

Monahan also declined to say whether the new joint PGA Tour-PIF venture would feature LIV’s team golf concept.

“There are a lot of things that we’re talking about, team golf being one of them, but I’m not at liberty to talk about the specifics,” Monahan said. “I just don’t think that’s helpful for what we’re trying to accomplish together.”

Monahan urged rank-and-file PGA Tour members opposed to allowing LIV players back on to the circuit to be flexible, but acknowledged that any eventual agreement was unlikely to be universally popular.

“When you’re in a negotiation like this and you’re in a time like this, it requires open-mindedness, it requires flexibility, and it requires a long-term view and a long-term vision,” Monahan said.

“But however we end up, I think that we’re not going to be able to satisfy everyone, and that goes for both sides.

“But what we’re trying to do is to get to the best possible outcome again for the Tour and for the game, and I do think that that’s achievable.”

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