Tiger Woods leads PGA contingent meeting with PIF’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan

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Rory McIlroy sees a “really big disconnect” between LIV Golf and its financial backer, Saudi Arabia’s Private Investment Fund, but remains hopeful progress can be made in the fracture between the PGA Tour and its upstart rival.

Any distance between the negotiating parties could be bridged in an in-person meeting scheduled for Monday between Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF, and player directors of the PGA Tour’s policy board, including Tiger Woods, according to player director Patrick Cantlay and McIlroy, a former player director.

The meeting location was moved from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., host of The Players Championship last week at TPC Sawgrass, to Nassau, Bahamas, and the Albany Resort, where Woods hosts an annual fundraising golf tournament and comes nine months after the infamous “framework agreement” between the PGA and LIV was announced.

Expected to meet with PIF and PGA Tour officials are player directors Woods, Cantlay, Adam Scott, Peter Malnati, Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth. Also expected are members of the Strategic Sports Group, which has committed $1.5 billion to PGA Tour Enterprises in the form of private equity.

“I think it should have happened months ago, so I am glad that it’s happening,” McIlroy said Sunday after his final round at The Players. “Hopefully, that progresses conversations and gets us closer to a solution.”

Men’s professional golf has been in an upheaval since LIV Golf launched in June 2022. With significant financial resources, LIV Golf successfully recruited many of the PGA Tour’s biggest names and others with guaranteed money far surpassing their annual earning power on the long-established tour.

The two sides are working on a partnership that has missed a deadline at the end of 2023. Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, a superstar in the sport, defected to the LIV Tour in December for a contract worth more than $300 million.

McIlroy said that Al-Rumayyan’s point of view on negotiations and the future of the sport doesn’t match with LIV officials such as Greg Norman and others. McIlroy believes Al-Rumayyan “wants to do the right thing. I have spent time with Yasir and his — the people that have represented him in LIV, I think, have done him a disservice, so, Norman and those guys,” McIlroy said.

“I see the two entities, and I think there’s a big, I actually think there’s a really big disconnect between PIF and LIV. I think you got PIF over here and LIV are sort of over here doing their own thing. So the closer that we can get to Yasir, PIF and, hopefully, finalize that investment, I think that will be a really good thing.”

McIlroy called it their “disruptiveness” compared to PIF’s place in the world of golf.

“They’re a sovereign wealth fund,” McIlroy said. “They want to park money for decades and not worry about it. They want to invest in smart and secure businesses, and the PGA Tour is definitely one of those, especially if they’re looking to invest in sport in some way.”

McIlroy said there could be a place for the LIV Tour’s team format as well as the standard individual golf format. Finding a workable resolution will require patience, he said.

“People have contracts at LIV up until 2028, 2029,” McIlroy said. “I don’t know if they’re going to see that all the way out, but I definitely see LIV playing in its current form for the next couple years anyway while everything gets figured out. I don’t think this is an overnight solution, but if we can get the investment in, then at least we can start working towards a compromise where we’re not going to make everyone happy, but at least make everyone understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.”