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Tiger: ‘Lot of work ahead’ with PIF negotiations

By admin May21,2024

  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior WriterMay 14, 2024, 12:35 PM ET

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

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tiger Woods said progress has been made in the PGA Tour’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but there is a “long way to go still” in bringing the fractured sport back together.

Woods’ comments came a day after independent director Jimmy Dunne resigned from the PGA Tour’s policy board and said talks with the PIF had slowed down. They come less than a week after Rory McIlroy told reporters that other player directors weren’t comfortable with him returning to the policy board.

PIF finances the rival LIV Golf League, which has poached several top golfers from the PGA Tour over the past two-plus years, including former major champions Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and others.

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“Well, I think we’re working on negotiations with PIF,” Woods said Tuesday at Valhalla Golf Club, the site of this week’s PGA Championship. “It’s ongoing, it’s fluid. It changes day-to-day. Has there been progress? Yes, but it’s an ongoing negotiation, so a lot of work ahead for all of us with this process. And so we’re making steps and it may not be giant steps, but we’re making steps.”

Woods was added to the influential policy board for the first time on Aug. 1 after a group of the PGA Tour’s biggest stars sent a letter to commissioner Jay Monahan demanding more transparency from the tour.

Woods is one of six player directors on the board, along with Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Peter Malnati and Webb Simpson.

There were five independent directors on the board, including Dunne. Along with Monahan and policy board chairman Ed Herlihy, Dunne helped negotiate the PGA Tour’s stunning framework agreement with the PIF, which was announced on June 6.

The framework agreement expired on Dec. 31, but the sides have been working to reach a deal. Woods and other player directors, along with Monahan, met with PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan in the Bahamas on March 18.

Dunne, a Wall Street dealmaker, wrote in his resignation letter Monday that “no meaningful progress has been made towards a transaction with PIF” and that “my vote and my role is utterly superfluous” because a small group of people were making decisions. Dunne said he hadn’t been involved in talks with the Saudis since June.

Woods and McIlroy are part of a transaction committee that will continue negotiations with the Saudis.

“Well, the PGA Tour is for the players and by the players,” Woods said. “So, we have an influence and there’s roles for the player directors, and there’s roles for the independents. We’re trying to make the PGA Tour the best it can be, day in and day out. That’s one of the reasons why we have arguments and we have disagreements, but we want to do what’s best for everyone in golf and the tour. Without those kinds of conflicts, the progress is not going to be there, so it’s been good.”

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On Tuesday, Spieth disputed suggestions that players had gained control of the PGA Tour policy board and PGA Tour Enterprises board.

“If you’re in the room, it’s very obvious that players are not dictating the future of golf and the PGA Tour,” Spieth said. “You need to have everyone’s perspective on both sides of it, and everyone that’s involved within Enterprises. You have a lot of strategic investors that know a heck of a lot more than any of us players. So that’s a false narrative that the players are determining all these things.

“Now that things have split up, they’re two very different boards. But I hope and feel like everyone’s trying to row the boat the same direction and get it to where they’re both in a very sound place [where] what’s been happening just doesn’t keep happening.”

Woods, a 15-time major champion, acknowledged that golf fans are probably tired of hearing about the battle for players and money between the circuits.

“I think the fans are probably as tired as we are of the talk of not being about the game of golf and about not being about the players,” Woods said. “It’s about what LIV is doing, what we’re doing, players coming back, players leaving. The fans just want to see us play together. How we get there is to be determined.”

Max Homa described the continued discussions about golf’s civil war “very troubling.”

“I don’t like where it’s going,” Homa said. “It’s got to be exhausting to be a casual golf fan at this point in time. I don’t know why you would want to hear about the business side of this game.

“I hope at some point soon we can just get back to entertaining people, playing golf, and seeing who shoots the lowest score and not talking about what our player advisory council is going to do. The fans of golf should not know who is on the board.”

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