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Still no deal a year after PGA merger plan with Saudi PIF unveiled

A year after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced a framework merger agreement with Saudi Arabian backers of LIV Golf, no final deal has been agreed upon and both tours are well into a 2024 campaign (SAM GREENWOOD)
A year after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced a framework merger agreement with Saudi Arabian backers of LIV Golf, no final deal has been agreed upon and both tours are well into a 2024 campaign (SAM GREENWOOD)

One year after the shock unveiling of a merger agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf's Saudi financial backers, the controversial move has not produced a finalized deal.

It was June 6, 2023 when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan announced their plan to unify the PGA and LIV, restoring a single tour for golf's best talent.

PGA players were unhappy at being blindsided, especially after pressure over Saudi human rights issues to reject rich offers from the upstart series.

Any deal, however, had to go through the PGA Tour Policy Board, a panel revamped with a player majority in recent months.

A December 31 deadline was missed and a transaction subcommittee is now charged with negotiations, with player member Rory McIlroy telling Sports Illustrated they have spoken with the Saudis three times a week in the past month.

A Friday gathering in New York with Monahan, Al-Rumayyan and Tiger Woods involved was the first in-person meeting since March, McIlroy calling it "big-boy stuff" with business leaders, not players, leading talks.

PIF would buy into the for-profit PGA Tour Enterprises, created earlier this year in a tour agreement with US sport team owners, Fenway Sports Group owner John Henry among those investing a total of $1.5 billion.

"Looking a few years down the line, LIV is going to continue to sort of keep going down its path, but with maybe more of a collaboration or an understanding between the tours," McIlroy told SI. "Maybe there's some cross-pollination there where players can start to play on both."

For now, it's just the latest rumor.

"A year later seems like there's a lot of rumors and everything's the exact same. I haven't seen a single difference since that day," said 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley.

"I've heard a lot of things that could happen. I have no clue what's going to happen with PIF. I hear a new rumor every day. I'm hopeful. I would love to have some of those big boys come back out here and play."

Deciding details of the path back to the unified series for PGA defectors and any accompanying punishment is a likely block to a final deal, as is a potential united tour with many more global stops compared to the mostly US-based PGA.

Television ratings have dipped this year, seen as a sign golf fans are weary of the LIV-PGA split.

"The PGA has a vision of what it wants to look like... and what it should evolve into," Aussie player negotiator Adam Scott told Golfweek. "I don't know exactly what (PIF's) vision is."

Scott sees a deal soon, more or less.

"I think we're getting there," Scott said. "Eventually, someone is going to have to put it out exactly what it is and I think that will happen very soon. You have to break the ice and someone has to show a hand. It's moving along as quickly as it can."

Woods says progress is slow but continues.

"It's fluid. It changes day to day," Woods said. "Has there been progress? Yes. But it's an ongoing negotiation, so a lot of work ahead for all of us.

"It may not be giant steps, but we're making steps."

The only current place to see the best PGA Tour players face LIV's top talent is at a major tournament.

- 'We're entertainers' -

LIV's Bryson DeChambeau, sixth at the Masters and second at the PGA Championship, is among 12 LIV players competing at the US Open.

"I've started to realize quite quickly that we're entertainers," he said. "We're out here doing a job but we're also entertaining fans, trying to grow the game, trying to show the fans what we're all about."

Second-ranked Xander Schauffele, last month's PGA Championship winner, expects the split will be all-but forgotten in time.

"I don't know what the timeframe would be," he said. "But this will just be a small blip everyone will laugh about. Remember when golf was really fractured?

"You'll laugh about it in five or six years. I imagine golf will be back together, everyone will be playing golf again together."

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