Jay Monahan provides update on secret PGA Tour-Saudi meeting

jay Monahan holds face from Players Championship winner's cerermony

Jay Monahan at the Players Championship on Sunday, one day before the PGA Tour's player directors boarded a flight to meet with Saudi officials.

Sam Greenwood/Getty

As with a surprising number of dramatic golf moments, Monday started with a group of internet sleuths tracking an airplane.

Over the weekend, Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch reported that some of golf’s biggest stars were considering a meeting with Saudi PIF chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan as early as this week — a development that seemed to indicate negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund were nearing the finish line. As the weekend wore on, more players confirmed that a meeting was, in fact, on the books — and expected to happen as early as Monday morning.

“I think it should have happened months ago, so I am glad that it’s happening,” said Rory McIlroy. “Hopefully that progresses conversations and gets us closer to a solution.”

Then, as the sun rose on Monday morning, the Twitter sleuths got to work, spotting a handful of developments in direct succession. The first, that a private plane registered to the PGA Tour was departing from Tour HQ in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and headed toward the Bahamas. The second, that said PGA Tour plane would be headed to the same Albany airport that had welcomed another private jet — this one belonging to the Saudi PIF — just a day earlier. And the third, that roughly 30 minutes after the arrival of the Saudi PIF jet, Tiger Woods’ megayacht, Privacy, had departed on a diving tour off the coast of the Bahamas, perhaps leaving enough time for an impromptu meeting between PIF officials and the 15-time major champ. The news had been confirmed: the PGA Tour player directors were headed for a meeting with Yasir Al-Rumayyan — the man known as H.E. (or, ‘His Excellency’) — that could have far-reaching ramifications for the future of professional golf.

After that early flurry of activity, there was silence. The planes would not be going anywhere, at least not for the rest of the afternoon, while discussions between the Tour’s player directors (who maintain a voting majority on all potential Tour equity moves) and Al-Rumayyan wore on. Woods’ boat would have no more movements scheduled. There was work to be done and a group of very difficult-to-wrangle people there to do it.

Then, as the sun set, an update arrived to PGA Tour players by way of a text from commissioner Jay Monahan: The meeting was complete.

“The conversation throughout was constructive and represents an important part of our due diligence process in selecting potential investors for PGA Tour Enterprises,” Monahan wrote. “This mirrors the approach we employed earlier this year as we evaluated an investment offer from the Strategic Sports Group.”

Per Monahan’s note, the message from Al-Rumayyan was a positive one — one might even go as far as to call it a sales pitch.

“During the session, Yasir had a chance to introduce himself to our player directors and talk through his vision, priorities and motivations for investing in professional golf,” Monahan said.

Details about that pitch and what it might have considered as far as thorny topics like investment valuation, team golf, and reunification with LIV Golf were not released. Per Monahan, mum is the word, at least until a deal has been finalized.

“As we continue these discussions with the PIF, we will keep you updated as much as possible, but please understand that we need to maintain our position of not conducting negotiations in public,” he said. “To that end, we will provide no further comments to the media at this time.”

But the good news is that there seems to be hope a deal could be finalized soon. After nine months of post-merger negotiation drama and all manner of fatigue from within the sport’s fans, that’s not only a positive development — it’s a necessary one.

And, at least in McIlroy’s eyes, there’s a chance that such a deal could be consummated in good faith from both sides.

“Fundamentally he wants to do the right thing,” McIlroy said. “I think I’ve said this before, I have spent time with Yasir, and the people that have represented him in LIV I think have done him a disservice — Norman and those guys. I think you got PIF over here and LIV are sort of over here doing their own thing.”

“They’re a sovereign wealth fund,” he said. “They want to park money for decades and not worry about it. They want to invest in smart and secure businesses, and the PGA Tour is definitely one of those, especially if they’re looking to invest in sport in some way.”

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