Many players pleased with new PGA Tour deal, even if they don’t quite know what it means
PEBBLE BEACH — Keegan Bradley admitted Wednesday that he didn’t yet know many of the details of the investment agreement in which Strategic Sports Group has pledged to infuse up to $3 billion into the PGA Tour, but he knew enough to be happy about it.
“It's so nice to hear some positive news and hear that a lot of guys are excited about it,” Bradley said on the practice putting green at Pebble Beach Golf Links, where he is preparing for the $20 million AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I think we’ve got just stability now and some of the unknowns are gone.”
The PGA Tour on Wednesday announced that in partnership with SSG it is launching PGA Tour Enterprises, a new commercial venture that will operate under the auspices of the tour. The strategic investment by SSG enables tour members to become equity stakeholders in the new for-profit entity, a groundbreaking development that more than any other detail, got the attention of players competing in this week’s signature event on the Monterey Peninsula.
Their reaction was, shall we say, predictable. More money is coming their way.
“We're the first organization where the players have equity in their sport. I mean, that hasn't happened in other sports, so it's a pretty cool day for golf,” Justin Thomas said. “I wouldn't think or hope that anybody would play any differently or try any harder or anything, but it truly feels like we're a part of the team. Or even more a part of the tour than we were, and everybody's involved.”
“I don't know the exact details, but [to be] the first professional league to have equity in the league, how stunning is that? I’ve got to think other sports are going to want to do this,” Bradley said with a big smile.
Exactly how those shares of equity—or grants, as the operative term being used—are distributed has yet to be revealed. Jordan Spieth, a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board that approved the deal, said that tour representatives would be available over the next month, through the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches, to address player questions, including their respective equity positions.
Byeong Hun An, currently third in the FedEx Cup standings, said he was reserving judgement.
“We knew this was coming, and obviously an investment in our tour is a positive step forward, but we don’t really know much more than that right now,” An said. “I think we like the idea of getting equity, but we don’t know who gets what amount. I think the best thing I can do is let the details get figured out and I’m just going to concentrate on playing good golf. I already feel like I make enough money, and my goal is to try to win tournaments, same as before.”
The deal puts the PGA Tour in a stronger financial position in the wake of the existential threat brought by the creation of the rival LIV Golf League. However, before the SSG infusion, the tour in June had reached a framework agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the financial muscle behind LIV. The structure of the SSG deal allows for PIF to invest in the new for-profit entity, but it’s unclear whether that will occur soon, if at all.
Players like An weren’t concerning themselves with those questions immediately.
“I’m probably like a lot of guys out here,” he said. “We realize that we’re pretty lucky. It’s a good time to play good golf. I mean, playing good is always the goal, but it just seems more important than ever.”