LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods is all for a deal getting done between the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
But as those talks continue behind the scenes, Woods knows a deal isn’t as big of a necessity as it once was.
Woods, on Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles, was asked repeatedly about the state of the Tour amid both the ongoing negotiations with the PIF and . While a deal with the PIF would in theory bring the golf world back together, Woods noted that the Tour has now already received the money it needed in the short term.
“Ultimately, we would like to have PIF be a part of our Tour and a part of our product,” Woods . “Financially, we don’t right now, and the money that they have come to the table with and what we initially had agreed to in the framework agreement, those are all the same numbers. Anything beyond this is going to be obviously over and above. We’re in a position right now [where] hopefully we can make our product better in the short term and long term.”
The Tour announced last month that SSG was investing up to $3 billion into the Tour, which will lead to the launch of PGA Tour Enterprises. That deal will allow players to actually have equity in the company, something that will help it directly compete with LIV Golf. The deal did not shut out the PIF and LIV Golf completely, and it allows for a “co-investment” that is “subject to all necessary regulatory approval.”
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to provide the best entertainment, and in order to do that you have to have the best players play,” Woods said. “We want to have the history, involve the history and the traditions of the history of our tour and have the pathways, accessibility, have all of the intangibles that have made the PGA Tour what it is right now and what has been, and hopefully what it will continue to be even better.
“And how do we do that? That’s the whole idea of why we have a group like SSG to provide us with information and help and trying to create the best tour we could possibly have.”
“It’s an ongoing, fluid process,” Woods, who is a member of the Tour’s player board of directors, said plainly. He didn’t really get into details when pressed about the PIF repeatedly, and he said he has not spoken with anybody from the fund directly.
If the LIV Golf-PGA Tour deal ends up getting done, there will have to be a decision made on how LIV Golf members can return to the PGA Tour should they choose to do so. Some Tour with open arms, while after what was largely a chaotic exit and period for the sport across the board.
Those discussions, Woods said, have been occurring on a daily and weekly basis. But for now, it’s too early to know how best to handle the situation.
“We’re looking into all the different models for pathways back,” Woods said. “What that looks like, what the impact is for the players who have stayed and who have not left and how we make our product better going forward, there is no answer to that right now. We’re looking at very different, varying degrees of ideas and what that looks like in the short term, we don’t know. We don’t even know in the longer term what that looks like.”
While it’s unclear how close it actually is to being finalized, Jordan Spieth doesn’t think that the PGA Tour needs to strike a deal with LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund anymore.
Spieth, speaking after the Tour announced a $3 billion investment deal with Strategic Sports Group on Wednesday,
“I don’t think that it’s needed,” Spieth said Wednesday from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I think the positive thing would be a unification [for the sport] … But the idea is that we have a strategic partner that allows the PGA Tour to go forward the way it’s operating right now without anything else with the option of other investors.”
The Tour announced Wednesday that SSG was investing up to $3 billion into the Tour. That deal will lead to the launch of PGA Tour Enterprises, a commercial venture under the Tour’s control that players can have equity in. The investment will entitle players to over $1.5 billion in equity shares.
The PIF, which backs LIV Golf, is not included in this deal — though it “allows for a co-investment from the Public Investment Fund in the future subject to all necessary regulatory approval.” The Tour and LIV Golf still have not finalized their partnership, something that was supposed to be done before the end of 2023. LIV Golf is launching its season this week in Mexico.
“I think the coolest thing about it is the players are now owners,” Spieth said. “So not only do they benefit with the Tour, they now are equity owners so they want to push it themselves, they want to make the product better themselves. Not that they didn’t before, but you directly benefit from owning a piece. So I think that part is maybe the coolest part of the funding.”
So for now, the Tour will continue on as scheduled — though it will do so with more money to help fund purses and pay players, something it can now do without having to rely on Saudi Arabian funding. Spieth, who joined the Tour’s player policy board after Rory McIlroy stepped down late last year, is in the field this week at Pebble Beach, which is the second designated event of the season.
The Tour and LIV Golf may come to terms on their agreement eventually. But now, thanks to the deal with SSG, the Tour is in a much better spot financially. If The Tour and LIV Golf are going to come together, Spieth said, it will be because both sides benefit.
“At this point if the PIF were interested in coming in on terms that our members like and/or the economic terms are at or not beyond SSGs and they feel it would be a good idea, I think that’s where the discussions will start,” Spieth said.
“I understand it could take some time to even come to those kind of terms … I hope that this starts to turn the corner and [people] recognize that we’re in a place where we could be better than we’ve ever been as a tour.”
The future of professional golf remains uncertain, but according to a report, answers could be around the corner.
The Strategic Sports Group (SSG), an outside investment group headlined by Fenway Sports Group and comprised of several high-level U.S.-based sports owners, may begin its investment in the PGA Tour as early as next week, according to a Sportico report.
Back on June 6, 2023, the Tour announced a framework agreement with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to create a for-profit golf entity known as PGA Tour Enterprises. Four months later, the PGA Tour’s policy board announced it had advanced discussions with the SSG and that it had not shut the door on the PIF.
ESPN previously reported anywhere from $3 billion to $7 billion may be in play, but Sportico claims the total money for the new entity will be less than the $3 billion figure. According to Sportico, the SSG investment will cover the Tour’s domestic rights. The PGA Tour has yet to respond to Golfweek for comment. A Tour representative told Sportico the information it reported was “incorrect” but did not elaborate further.
One could argue that bringing in outside investors is a way to make the deal more palatable given the U.S. government’s various questions. On the flip side, such a move might be seen as a way for the Tour to have its cake and eat it, too, by pushing the Saudis out after ending the litigation with the framework agreement. The former seems more realistic and would be a step towards reuniting the game, while the latter would be another pivot from the Tour that would only lead to more battles with LIV.
This year was supposed to usher in a new era of professional golf following the last two years that were chock-full of uncertainty. While plenty of questions remain, some answers may be near.