PGA Tour commissioner says sides are making progress on deal with Saudi backers of LIV Golf

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday the difficulty in finalizing a deal with the Saudi backers of LIV Golf isn’t a reason for concern.

“With complexity comes opportunity,” he said before the start of the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands. “There are a lot of different factors at play, but nobody who is having the conversation is unaware of the complexity. And everyone, I think, is embracing the fact that there are obstacles and things you’ve got to overcome in a complex situation.

“We have the right people around the table for us,” Monahan said, “and they do as well.”

It’s been more than a year since the PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia — the financial backer of the rival LIV circuit — announced plans to form a partnership that would help bring peace to a sport torn apart by the departures of dozens of top players lured away by Saudi riches.

A framework for the deal was announced June 6, 2023, with plans to finalize it by the end of the year.

The deadline passed with no agreement. Monahan said a June 11 meeting in New York, attended by Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, with Rory McIlroy phoning in from the Memorial, was “very productive." He declined to give specifics.

Monahan said he is on the phone with the PIF multiple times a week, including just about an hour earlier on Wednesday morning. “My outlook for those discussions and discussions continues to be very positive,” he said.

Speaking from the last of the limited field, no-cut signature events on the tour’s calendar this year, Monahan declined to say what has been agreed to and what remains unsettled. The original framework has changed greatly, he acknowledged.

“The framework agreement is still relevant. There are aspects of it that certainly continue to be in play. But we’ve all stepped back, and we started anew,” he said, listing new committees and other opportunities for the players to participate and profit from a future tour. “The vast majority of what we’re talking about, we’re building from the ground up.”

One of the complexities the deal faces is a possible objection from the Justice Department on antitrust grounds. The rival tours would need to show that the deal enhances competition — by bringing all the best golfers to the same tournament, for example — instead of squelching competition by giving golf fans, sponsors and players fewer options.

The sides already bowed to one suggestion from the Justice Department last summer, eliminating an anti-poaching clause in the framework agreement.

Meanwhile, players continued to defect to LIV — including last year's Masters champion, Jon Rahm.

Only seven players have been involved in the talks. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler said he didn’t know enough about the negotiations to worry about what will happen.

“I haven’t really heard too much, so I don’t know if they’re going great or if they’re going poorly, so your guess is as good as mine I think at this point,” he said. “Definitely no frustration or anything like that for me. It’s out of my control, so I’m not too worried about it.

“They have got a lot of big business decisions to make,” said Scheffler, who is a member of the Player Advisory Council. “But as far as input in the negotiations, I don’t really have much to say at all.”


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