PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan gives ‘update’ on Saudi PIF deal

Talks continue to progress, according to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.

Speaking ahead of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Monahan revealed that negotiations remain ongoing between the tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the beneficiary of LIV Golf.

But much to the dismay of golf fans and media alike, little insight was provided Tuesday in Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida.

“We’ve made and continue to make real progress in our negotiations and our discussions with the PIF,” Monahan said.

“I recognize that this is frustrating for all of you, but it really is not in the best interest of the PGA Tour, our membership, and the PIF for me to discuss where we are with specific elements of our discussions.”

Since the rise of LIV Golf two years ago, professional golf has found itself in a civil war.

Despite that, Monahan feels confident about the future.

“We have a shared vision to quiet the noise and unlock golf’s worldwide potential. It’s going to take time, but I reiterate what I said at the Tour Championship in August: I see a positive outcome for the PGA Tour and the sport as a whole,” Monahan said.

“Most importantly, I see a positive outcome for our great fans. Despite the distractions over the last two years, fans, sponsors, and communities continue to value and engage with the PGA Tour, and I am more confident than ever in the fundamental strength of our organization.”

Although the tour has yet to negotiate a deal with the PIF, it has formed an agreement with the Strategic Sports Group (SSG).

THE PLAYERS Championship, PGA Tour

The PLAYERS Championship flag.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

That deal with SSG raised some eyebrows in the golf world. Some felt that an agreement between the PGA Tour and the PIF remained far away. Others felt a deal would not happen altogether with SSG now on the scene.

But Monahan feels differently.

“It was important for SSG and for the Tour to engage directly with the PIF prior to finalizing any deal, which is why I joined principals from SSG on a trip to Saudi Arabia [in January] to meet with [PIF Governor] Yasir [al-Rumayyan] and members of PIF, and that’s why we continue to have productive discussions,” Monahan explained.

“There’s a mutual respect there that I think is helpful towards ultimately getting a deal done, and I think that level of discussion has helped accelerate the conversations.”

SSG members include John Henry, the Chairman of Fenway Sports Group, Marc Lasry, the former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Steve Cohen, the owner of the New York Mets. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck are also involved with SSG.

Four members of that consortium now sit on the 13-member PGA Tour Enterprises board: Henry, Blank, Cohen’s son Andrew, and Sam Kennedy, the CEO of the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group.

“The conversations with SSG have enhanced the likelihood of us reaching a successful conclusion,” Monahan explained.

“When you bring in a group of investors in that consortium that combined have over 200 years of managing professional sports franchises in the U.S. and internationally, and you bring in that level of expertise, I think that that is attractive to the PIF.”

The SSG consortium will pour roughly $3 billion into a new for-profit entity, PGA Tour Enterprises.

But how does that differ from the current PGA Tour?

“I think the easiest way for me to summarize the structure is, that PGA Tour, Inc., the Tour’s 501(c)6, continues to stay in place, and the best way to look at that is that is all of our membership, eligibility, and most importantly, all of our competition related business. It sits right there,” Monahan said.

Jay Monahan, PGA Tour, The PLAYERS Championship

Jay Monahan speaks to reporters ahead of The 2024 PLAYERS Championship.
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

“PGA Tour Enterprises takes all the commercial assets that have existed in the PGA Tour and puts them in a new for-profit entity. The relationship between the two is exceedingly close. From my position, I look at it as one organization, with a new charter and a new opportunity as it relates to being able to utilize investment capital to the benefit of our players and fans.”

The last few years have undoubtedly made Monahan’s job much more difficult. Conversely, Monahan has not made his job any easier either. He failed to execute a high level of transparency last summer and has also angered numerous players with the new Signature Events structure.

As such, many layers—like Xander Schauffele—still do not have complete faith in him. Monahan knows that, but he still believes in himself to lead the PGA Tour going forward.

“I can’t generalize as it relates to players, but clearly given the responsibility I’ve been given by both boards, I have the support of our board, and I am the right person to lead us forward,” Monahan said.

“I know that. I believe that in my heart, and I’m determined to do exactly that.”

Whether he shepherds the PGA Tour into a new era of professional golf alongside the PIF remains to be seen. However, the Commissioner did make sure that the next time he speaks with the media—likely at the Tour Championship in Atlanta in August—he will have more concrete updates regarding this deal.

But if those updates are similar to the ones he distilled Tuesday, anger, resentment, and frustration will continue to percolate across PGA Tour players, fans, and golf media alike.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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