Players Championship

Players Championship: Player director doubtful team golf will come to PGA Tour ahead of meeting with LIV Golf's financial backer

March 16, 2024

Kevin C. Cox

PONTE VEDRA BEACH—The PGA Tour’s player directors are expected to meet Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan following the Players Championship as the tour and LIV Golf’s financial backer continue negotiations towards possible peace in the professional game. But one of those player directors is somewhat skeptical of one of the partnership’s biggest sticking points being solved.

Multiple sources familiar with the matter told Golf Digest that LIV Golf’s team component is one of many highly-contested subjects in a potential deal. In leaked documents from last summer’s framework agreement, it was stated that the newly-created entity formed by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF would “Undertake a full and objective empirical data-driven evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf in general, and PIF, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour will work together in an effort to determine how best to integrate team golf into PGA Tour and DP World Tour events going forward.” However, that deal was struck without PGA Tour player involvement, and sources tell Golf Digest that many tour officials and players do not want any team-centric officials events on the schedule.

Speaking to the media Saturday after his third round at the Players Championship, player director Peter Malnati expressed that he’s open to hearing what PIF has to pitch, but reiterated his doubt over the topic.

“Yeah, I need to understand better what Yasir is really trying to accomplish there.,” Malnati said. “Because, like, if we look at—obviously the greatest team event in golf right now is the Ryder Cup, and it's incredible. But what this sort of, I don't know LIV, what they're doing, but it seems like a very forced team model, to me.”

Malnati seemed incredulous that fans care about what teams win LIV Golf events, calling the element “contrived.”

“I don't see a way that we incorporate team golf into the FedExCup schedule. I just don't,” Malnati said. “I personally don't want that, but I can always have my mind changed if I see a great idea, but personally, I don't want that and I don't see a way that we do that.”

Malnati did leave the door open, stating the tour has options to play with in the fall (which is no longer part of the tour’s FedEx Cup calendar). He mentioned the tour has a team aspect of sorts in TGL, the Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy-led mixed-reality league that will launch next year.

Malnati also briefly touched on the idea of unification, another delicate negotiation topic. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who described his secret deal with PIF as a chance “to take the competitor off the board,” wants several LIV players under the tour umbrella, albeit with LIV shut down. Most of the top PGA Tour players—including Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods—do not want LIV players back without some sort of penalty or retribution, while Rory McIlroy has stated his desire to see all of the best players competing against each other again.

“Yeah, that's obviously, that might be the thing that's most top of mind for people,” Malnati said. “You would find opinions that ran the gamut, from guys that just have a line in the sand that say never, and guys—I mean, I think Rory's been pretty outspoken that he wants to see the best players playing on the PGA Tour. So we're going to have to net out somewhere in the middle.

"I don't think, you know, I don't think -- I think the easiest, most likely route we go when we do find a way for guys to come back, is just guys aren't coming back to the PGA Tour with membership on the PGA Tour. They're coming back to the PGA Tour as guys are going to have to earn their way back here. I think there's certain methods that we've been able to establish and put in place that will be really, really good for the PGA Tour and its membership, and our fans too.”

The meeting between the tour’s player directors and Al-Rumayyan is expected to take place on Monday in the Ponte Vedra Beach area. Earlier this week, Monahan said "We've made and continue to make real progress in our negotiations and our discussions with the PIF," adding "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."