The PGA Tour has been in near-constant upheaval since the PIF formally launched LIV in late 2021, the upstart poaching well-known players with lucrative deals both prior to and since it began play in 2022. (The latest, according to The Telegraph, is Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, for a reported $65 million. Hatton was to be a member of Boston Common Golf, the FSG-backed entry in the simulator golf league TGL whose debut was pushed back to 2025.)
What appeared to be a protracted and expensive legal battle between the sides surprisingly was shelved in June, with the unveiling of a framework agreement that would see the tours join forces to remake men’s professional golf.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and LIV Golf chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan have been holding talks about the size, scope, and nature of the proposed partnership the last couple of months, passing through a proposed Dec. 31 deadline to complete a deal with a New Year’s announcement that “we are working to extend our negotiations into next year based on the progress we have made to date.”
The talks among the primary interested parties, which includes the DP World (formerly European) Tour, have otherwise been shrouded in secrecy for several months.
In December, the PGA Tour’s Policy Board — which includes players among the executives — acknowledged that it had chosen to advance in investment talks with the SSG consortium, a group that includes owners from the five largest North American sports leagues.
Along with FSG itself, its top four owners — John Henry, Tom Werner, Gerry Cardinale, and Mike Gordon — are individually listed as SSG members. In addition to the Red Sox, FSG also owns Liverpool Football Club, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and 80 percent of NESN. (Henry also owns the Globe.)
Also in the SSG mix is Celtics lead owner Wyc Grousbeck; Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio; Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United; New York Mets owner Steven A. Cohen and his Cohen Private Ventures; David Moross of HighPost Capital; former Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry; and Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.
In a statement concerning their proposed partnership with the PGA Tour, Henry said, “Strategic Sports Group [a consortium of US-based professional sports team investors] has expressed interest in supporting the PGA Tour and its alliance partner, the DP World Tour, and we look forward to a continued dialogue to help further the commercial aspects of the Tour on behalf of its membership, partners, and fans around the world.”
Soon after the SSG talks development, LIV Golf announced that it had signed reigning Masters champion and world No. 3 Jon Rahm in a deal reportedly worth more than $300 million. (Hatton is expected to join Rahm’s new LIV team.) Rahm will join other major champions Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith, and Phil Mickelson on LIV.
PGA Tour television ratings on CBS were up 1 percent last year from 2022. LIV Golf, which has a broadcast deal with The CW network, stopped revealing ratings of its tour stops in April.
Monahan’s revelation about working with, rather than against, PIF led to blowback substantial enough for the Belmont native and former FSG employee to take a leave of absence that he said was related to stress.
The involvement of PIF has caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., concerned with Saudi Arabia’s stances on human rights, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose assassination US intelligence believed was approved by top Saudi leaders.
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.