PGA Tour player directors prepare for meeting with Saudi leader of LIV Golf

Players on the PGA Tour board are preparing to meet with the Saudi leader backing LIV Golf

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Players on the PGA Tour board negotiating with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund have a meeting planned Monday with the Saudi leader backing rival LIV Golf, something Rory McIlroy said Sunday should have happened long ago.

He also said Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Investment Fund, wants to be “productive” in golf, while Greg Norman and others involved in LIV are disruptive.

McIlroy won't be part of the meeting, and details remained vague on where it would be held and whether it would be anything more than an ice breaker with Al-Rumayyan.

“I doubt we will get into anything substantive in the first meeting,” said Patrick Cantlay, one of six player directors on PGA Tour Enterprises, the new commercial venture that already has a minority investor in Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of U.S. sports owners.

McIlroy gave up his seat on the board in November and was replaced by Jordan Spieth. The other four player directors are Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Peter Malnati and Webb Simpson.

McIlroy met with Al-Rumayyan last year at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. In fact, he said on a British soccer podcast at the start of the year that he had a part in the PGA Tour meeting with PIF in the first place, which led to the stunning June 6 announcement of a proposed partnership.

Cantlay confirmed there were “plans to have a meeting” on Monday at an undisclosed location.

“I think it should have happened months ago, so I am glad that it’s happening,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully that progresses conversations and gets us closer to a solution.”

The solution ultimately would be patching together golf, with players like Masters champion Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, PGA champion Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau among those now with LIV and suspended from PGA Tour-sanctioned events except the four majors.

The PGA Tour's deal with PIF was supposed to be completed by the end of last year. But with government inquiries, and interest from private equity groups, the deal wasn't done. The tour aligned with SSG, and Rahm defected to LIV. SSG has pledged up to $3 billion, including $1.5 billion for a player equity program.

McIlroy drew a distinction between Al-Rumayyan and LIV Golf, particularly Norman, the CEO and commissioner of the rival league. McIlroy had said at the end of 2022 that Norman needed to “exit stage left” for there to be any meaningful conversations.

“I have spent time with Yasir and the people that have represented him in LIV I think have done him a disservice, so Norman and those guys,” McIlroy said Sunday at The Players Championship.

“I actually think there’s a really big disconnect between PIF and LIV,” he said. “I think you got PIF over here and LIV are sort of over here doing their own thing. So the closer that we can get to Yasir, PIF and hopefully finalize that investment, I think that will be a really good thing.”

Malnati said there was “massive resistance” to Saudi involvement because of the surprise June 6 announcement — PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, with 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.”

Among the potential obstacles are how to blend players when there is animosity over those who left for massive signing bonuses to join LIV, along with LIV's desire for team golf.

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

“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.”

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Credit: AP

Credit: AP