Talks between PGA Tour, Saudis ‘accelerating,’ commissioner says

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The PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund have ramped up discussions on a deal announced last June that would ally the tour and the financial arm of LIV Golf.

But PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, in his first news conference since last August, said now is not the time to discuss specifics in public.

“As I’ve said on a number of occasions, you can’t negotiate a deal like this in public,” he said Tuesday morning at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., ahead of The Players Championship.

“I recently met with the governor of the PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and our negotiations are accelerating as we spend time together.”

Monahan was peppered with questions about the potential PIF deal as well as his own standing with players and didn’t directly answer several questions.

But he didn’t understate the need to boost the PGA Tour at a time when it finds itself on shaky ground after several top players bolted to the big-money LIV circuit.

“While we have several key issues that we still need to work through, we have a shared vision to quiet the noise and unlock golf’s worldwide potential,” said Monahan, who has served in his role since Jan. 1, 2017. “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 the positives already are being seen with the emergence of new stars and the strength of established players.

“Three rookies who took distinctly different paths to the PGA Tour have already entered the winner’s circle in 2024,” he said. “Nick Dunlap, the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour since 1992; Matthieu Pavon, a new arrival via the DP World Tour top 10, who sits third in the FedExCup standings; and Korn Ferry Tour graduate Jake Knapp.

“We’ve also witnessed the game’s elite excelling on the biggest stages: Hideki Matsuyama’s Sunday 62 at the Genesis Invitational, to become the most accomplished Asian-born player in PGA Tour history; Wyndham Clark winning his second Signature Event at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the strength of a course record 60 at Pebble Beach; and last week, World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler pulled away from a stacked leaderboard with a master class performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.”

The negatives this season, as the tour has tried to showcase its Signature Events — big-money tournaments created to lure top players — have included the weather, Monahan said.

“As we sit here 10 weeks into it, and we’ve also had the reality — we had a little bit of an anomaly with three of our seven events being significantly impacted by weather.”

“The positive to that is new players and new stars are emerging, but the reason I say it’s early days is there have been some factors that I think have limited our ability to fully see the value of these Signature Events,” he said.

Monahan said he has regrets over the way he handled the announcement in June that the tour and the Saudi PIF were in talks to work together — an announcement that caught PGA Tour members off guard.

“When you look back to last summer I could have handled that better, and I’ve taken full responsibility and accountability for that. That’s on me,” he said. “But we’ve moved on, and we’ve made so much progress since that point in time and I have learned from it. I’ve been humbled by it. I think I’ve gotten stronger as a leader, and the progress that we have made since that point in time.”

Monahan was asked about player confidence in him and didn’t directly answer whether some player directors on the policy board had called on him to resign. But he said he is the right person to lead the PGA Tour at this transitional time.

“You know, there’s been a lot of good, spirited debate amongst our board. I don’t think that would be a surprise to anybody, you know, given the events of last summer,” he said. “But we are a unified front. Our policy board continues to perform and function at a very high level with great support of our player directors.”

He continued: “I have the support of our board, and I am the right person to lead us forward. I know that. I believe that in my heart, and I’m determined to do exactly that.”