PGA Tour board says new phase of talks have begun with Saudi's PIF, but signal deal may not ultimately happen

June 27, 2023

Patrick Smith

The PGA Tour’s policy board issued a statement Tuesday night following a players meeting in Detroit regarding the proposed deal between the tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, signaling a “new phase” of negotiations have begun while indicating the deal may ultimately not come to fruition.

The statement comes a day after the framework agreement between the tour, PIF and DP World Tour—which was just five pages long and short on specifics—was made public.

“Entering the framework agreement put an end to costly litigation,” the policy board said in a statement ahead of this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic. “Management, with input from our player directors, has now begun a new phase of negotiations to determine if the tour can reach a definitive agreement that is in the best of interests of our players, fans, sponsors, partners, and the game overall. That was the focus of our productive policy board meeting this afternoon, with valuable and crucial input and perspective from the membership through our player directors.

“If future negotiations lead to a proposed agreement, it would need approval by the tour’s policy board, which includes player directors. In the meantime, we are all committed to the safeguards in the framework agreement that ensure the PGA Tour would lead and maintain control of this potential new commercial entity. We are confident that the tour’s mission will continue to focus on showcasing the game of golf while serving local communities.”

The tour’s policy board is made up of five players and five independent directors. Two of the directors, Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne, authored the proposed alliance with PIF. The other three directors are Mark Flaherty (former vice chairman, Wellington Management), Mary Meeker (partner, Bond Capital) and Randall Stephenson (former chairman and CEO, AT&T). Stephenson’s voice carries considerable weight with both players and the PGA Tour’s brass, sources have told Golf Digest.

The five players on the board are Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Webb Simpson and Charley Hoffman. Any deal between the tour and PIF would need to be signed off by the board.

Speaking at the U.S. Open, Cantlay was asked about the sense of anger and betrayal among tour players regarding the surprise joint effort by the tour and PIF. While Cantlay said he didn’t have enough information at the time to comment about the proposal itself, he asserted his role is to “represent the members as best as possible and to do right by them.”

“I think anytime that you're left in the dark on a decision that potentially affects you massively, that could easily make you upset,” Cantlay said. “For me, I'm just trying to understand this deal as best I can or understand what's going on as best I can. It seems really complicated. I don't want to get ahead of myself and form an opinion like that until I know all the facts and know what it's about. But I understand that emotion, and I think it's totally natural and understandable.”

The deal has more hurdles than just the policy board. Congress has invited PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan to testify at a public hearing on July 11 regarding the proposed partnership. The deal could also be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyzes mergers regarding potential threats to the nation’s security. Additionally, the tour continues to be under an antitrust probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, and PIF’s investment into the tour is expected to fall under this investigation. Further complicating matters is the uncertain status of Monahan, who experienced an undisclosed medical issue on June 13 and has not made any public appearances or statements since. 

The framework between the tour and PIF calls for a new agreement to be completed by the end of the year, although both sides can agree to extend the deadline.