124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

PIF-PGA Tour partnership

Jay Monahan fires back at Congress, says government inaction led PGA Tour to fend for itself against Saudi Arabia

June 12, 2023

Richard Heathcote

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan responded to a Congressional inquiry regarding the tour’s proposed partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, citing inaction from the United States government as leaving the tour to “fend off” attacks for itself.

On Monday, the tour received a letter from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations asking for records and communications between the tour and the PIF. According to Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, the deal “raises concerns about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.” However, Monahan sent a letter to Congress on June 9, trying to assuage worries while stating his tour had no choice.

The letter was obtained and published by Politico on Monday.

“Over the past two years, the PGA Tour has fought an intense and highly publicized battle as the Saudi Arabian PIF-backed LIV golf league attempted to ‘buy’ PGA Tour players and take over the game of golf in the United States and beyond, creating a fractured golf ecosystem and fomenting a heated divisiveness into the game,” Monahan wrote. “We believe that we did everything we could possibly do to defend what we stand for, including spending tens of millions of dollars to defend ourselves from litigation instigated by LIV Golf – significant funds diverted away from our core mission to benefit our players and generate charity. As part of the litigation, we were successful in securing a court ruling that the PIF was not protected under sovereign immunity with respect to litigation discovery and potentially liability, something which had never been done before in the United States.

“During this intense battle, we met with several Members of Congress and policy experts to discuss the PIF’s attempt to take over the game of golf in the United States, and suggested ways that Congress could support us in these efforts. While we are grateful for the written declarations of support we received from certain members, we were largely left on our own to fend off the attacks, ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This left the very real prospect of another decade of expensive and distracting litigation and the PGA Tour’s long-term existence under threat."

In the letter Monahan said the PIF will be a minority investor in the new commercial entity, with the tour retaining majority equity. Monahan pointed out the PIF is investing in the tour similarly to its investments in other “U.S.-based companies.” Monahan also wrote that the partnership will allow the tour to help protect the game and the tour’s work.

“Rather than a foreign funded entity taking over an American sport, the end result is that the PIF has agreed to work within the existing golf ecosystem as a minority investor with the PGA Tour in full control,” Monahan wrote. “The PGA Tour is, and will remain, an American institution dedicated to its players and generating charity in the communities where we play.”

The PIF-PGA Tour alliance could be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyzes mergers regarding potential threats to the nation’s security. The tour remains involved in a probe by the Justice Department that was spurred by the advent of LIV Golf. The DOJ investigation has also spread to include other golf entities, including Augusta National Golf Club, the PGA of America and the USGA, which is hosting this week’s U.S. Open.