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McIlroy, on new committee, to be in Saudi talks

By admin May13,2024

  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior WriterMay 9, 2024, 08:49 PM ET

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    • Senior college football writer
    • Author of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia

Rory McIlroy isn’t returning to the PGA Tour’s policy board, but he’ll still be involved in negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund regarding a potential multibillion-dollar investment in PGA Tour Enterprises as a member of the newly formed transaction committee, the tour announced Thursday.

McIlroy had hoped to rejoin the PGA Tour’s policy board, but said he wouldn’t replace Webb Simpson because of other player directors’ concerns about bringing him back.

Former Valero Energy Corp. CEO Joseph W. Gorder has been unanimously elected by the PGA Tour Enterprises board of directors to serve as its inaugural chairman, the tour said in a news release.

Gorder, now executive chairman of Valero Energy’s board, will also serve on the transaction subcommittee, along with player liaison director Joe Ogilvie, Fenway Sports Group founder and principal owner John W. Henry, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, and golfers Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and McIlroy.

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Gorder joined the PGA Tour’s policy board last year.

“Joe’s outstanding business acumen and leadership, marked by his time as chairman and CEO of a Fortune 50 company, position him perfectly to lead the PGA Tour Enterprises board as we embark on this new chapter,” Monahan said in a statement. “His strategic vision is crucial as we collaborate — player directors, board members and Tour management — all pulling together to deliver the best for our fans, who are always our top priority, while also enhancing the tour overall for our players and sponsors.”

McIlroy, who resigned from the policy board Nov. 14, was expected to replace Simpson on that board and the board of directors of PGA Tour Enterprises, the new for-profit entity the tour formed with Strategic Sports Group in January.

SSG, a consortium of billionaire American sports team owners and celebrities, made an initial investment of $1.5 billion — with up to $3 billion available.

McIlroy has grown frustrated with the lack of movement in the PGA Tour’s negotiations with the PIF, which finances the rival LIV Golf League. The sides signed a framework agreement June 6, and the deadline passed Dec. 31. The sides have continued to negotiate over the past four-plus months.

McIlroy said Wednesday that the idea of him going back to the policy board “opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before.” According to McIlroy, there was a subset of people on the board who were “maybe uncomfortable” with the idea of him returning.

“I don’t necessarily think or believe that people didn’t want me involved, it was more just the process of how I could get involved again, right?” McIlroy said. “Like the board has [gone] through this massive eight-month governance review, and what happened with Webb and I and that whole thing, that was outside of the scope of the governance, right?

“So then what’s the process look like to try to bring me back in? That was really the sticking point with it all.”

After carding a 4-under 67 in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday, McIlroy was asked whether his relationship with Woods was strained.

“Friends can have disagreements, or not see eye to eye on things, but have disagreements on things,” McIlroy said. “I think that’s fine. But no, we had a really good talk last Friday for 45 minutes just about a lot of different things. No, there’s no strain there. I think we might see the future of golf a little bit differently, but I don’t think that should place any strain on a relationship or on a friendship.”

McIlroy said he had a videoconference session with other members of the transaction committee for more than an hour Sunday. The group went through a 150-page document about the tour’s future product model.

“Yeah, I’m not on the board, but I’m in some way involved in that transaction committee,” McIlroy said. “I don’t have a vote, so, you know, I don’t have, I guess, a meaningful say in what happens in the future, but at least I feel like I can be helpful on that committee, and that was sort of a compromise for, I guess, not getting a board seat.”

Simpson, 38, will finish his term, which expires in 2025. He had planned to step down from both boards to spend time with his family.

“I’m really comfortable that Webb is staying in that seat,” McIlroy said. “Webb is a very levelheaded, balanced, big-picture guy. If it wasn’t me taking his seat, the next-best thing was Webb staying on. Yeah, I’m happy about that.”

Along with Simpson, Scott and Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati and Jordan Spieth are player directors on the policy board.

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