The biggest battle in golf is set to rumble on into 2024 after the December 31 deadline to formalise a merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf came and went. But a deal between the tours is not dead in the water after the PGA confirmed to its member players that talks were expected to resume in the new year.
A memo was sent to all PGA players shortly before the turn of the year to advise that negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund would continue in 2024. In the memo, which was cascaded on New Year’s Eve, Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said that the PGA was making an effort to extend the deadline based on the progress that has already been made in negotiations.
Talks with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) are described as “active and productive” in a short update on the PGA Tour website.
Golf was hit by a bombshell announcement last June when Monahan revealed that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf had dropped all litigation action against each other and had reached a ‘framework agreement’ to work on a merged tour alongside the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour).
But very little detail around how that would look has been shared outside the negotiation room with the future landscape of elite men’s golf continuing to hang in the balance.
The PIF’s breakaway golf league is not the only party that the PGA is talking to, however. A consortium known as the Strategic Sports Group (SSG) is keen to get involved and if Monahan gets his way they will be part of the overall agreement.
SSG is made up of billionaire sports team owners including representation from Fenway Sports Group (FSG) who own Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox.
In his memo to players, Monahan confirmed that the PGA “have made meaningful progress” in negotiations with SSG and that a deal is close to being done, with the finalising of terms and drafting of necessary documents currently being worked on. The New York Post claims that a deal with SSG would pump £2.3m into the new-look tour.
But how that relationship will exist in tandem with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour still remains to be seen.
Golf’s established leading tours were rocked by the Saudi-funded breakaway league in 2022 when a number of high-profile stars resigned their memberships to join LIV in exchange for hugely lucrative deals. The most recent convertee is Masters champion and Ryder Cup star Jon Rahm who joined LIV last month in a deal that will reportedly see that Spaniard land a staggering £450m.
But despite a clear message of intent from LIV and Rahm it still appears to be the PGA’s ambition to bring all of the key stakeholders – including SSG – together as minority investors of a new tour called PGA Tour Enterprises.
Monahan said: “These partnerships will allow us to unify, innovate and invest in the game for the benefit of the players, fans and sponsors.”
However, reports in the US (as per the New York Post) have suggested that PIF have not been impressed by the power afforded to players who sit on the PGA Advisory Board, who can veto any deal.
And according to CBS Sports, LIV Golf chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan is wary of private equity money (SSG) becoming involved in the deal as it felt like LIV was no longer at the centre of talks.