Why the Tour-Saudi deal concerns Butch Harmon — and whom he feels sorry for

Butch Harmon, Rickie Fowler

Butch Harmon, left, and Rickie Fowler at the 2019 U.S. Open.

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Butch Harmon wants the deal between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia PIF to work. 

But the legendary swing coach believes the conversation should have been more open — and that the current plan lacks direction.  

“I just didn’t understand — to me, I would have rather seen them say, instead of saying we have a deal, I would rather have heard them say, ‘We’re trying to figure out a way we can get the best players in the world all playing back together again because we love the four majors seeing them all together again,’” Harmon said this week on the Sky Sports Golf Podcast. “‘The two sides had started to talk with the DP World Tour involved, we’re going to work this out, and it’s going to take some time.’ And everybody would have said, oh, wow, that’s great. 

“If you come out and say, OK, we merged together, we have this and that, and then you have no plan. There’s no plan at all. I mean, to this day, we don’t know what’s going on and how is this going to work. 

“And now unfortunately the U.S. federal government is involved and whether they did things right or wrong. And any time you get the government involved, they can screw up anything. And now they’re going to tell golf how to be run. My god, come on. Please take care of the budget; don’t worry about freaking golf.” 

Harmon’s comments come about a month after the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund — which bankrolls LIV Golf — announced that they had come to an agreement to operate a new, for-profit enterprise and end pending litigation among the sides, with a path back for LIV players. Notably, the deal was reportedly negotiated by just four people — Monahan, PGA Tour policy board members Ed Hirlihy and Jimmy Dunne, and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor — and there have been player meetings since, with a Senate hearing to discuss the deal scheduled for Tuesday.

In the hours that followed the announcement, most pros said they had learned of the news through news sites or social media, following a year of player departures, bickering and lawsuits between the Tour and LIV. On the SkySports podcast, Harmon said he felt most sorry for Rory McIlroy, who had been a vocal spokesman for the Tour and said he heard of the deal from Dunne hours before it was revealed. 

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“There were a lot of things that were said, good and bad, on both sides,” Harmon said on the podcast. “The person I feel the most sorry for is Rory. Because I think the Tour asked Rory to be the spokesman, and he did. The beauty of Rory McIlroy in interviews, especially from a TV standpoint like you and I are involved in, is he’s very honest in his thoughts. He’ll give you an honest answer, which I love. 

“And unfortunately he got thrown under the bus on this deal. And I really felt sorry for him, and I actually told him that.”    

Still, Harmon hopes the deal will work. On the podcast, he also said that the Tour should have listened more as LIV started to take shape. 

“So we’ll see how it works out,” Harmon said on the podcast. “I hope it works out because I think it could be perfect for world golf. As far as players go, we’re in the best situation we’ve ever been in. There are hundreds of phenomenal young players today. And the game’s only going to get better. 

“So let’s make all this work and get together and make everybody a whole bunch of money and have a great time.”

Editor’s note: To listen to the complete Sky Sports podcast with Harmon, please click here.    

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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