Deal between PGA and DP World Tours and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund ‘not workable’

by Joanne Miller

Golf is currently going through a period of uncertainty as the future of the sport remains clouded. While recent tournaments like the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup have provided excitement and thrill, there are underlying issues that need to be addressed. One of the main hurdles is the “framework agreement” involving the PGA and DP World Tours and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which seems to be in trouble.

All parties involved in the agreement have a vested interest in making it work. The tours are seeking financial security, while PIF wants legitimacy in the golf marketplace, which has been disrupted by the breakaway LIV Tour. However, bringing all sides together has proven to be difficult, and the PGA Tour is now exploring other sources of investment.

One potential investor is Ari Emanuel, the CEO of Endeavor, an organization that recently acquired WWE wrestling and is merging it with UFC. Emanuel confirmed that Endeavor has bid to invest in the PGA Tour’s new for-profit company. While he expressed his love for golf and his belief that Endeavor can bring value to the sport, his involvement could potentially impact the Saudi deal.

LIV Tour, the breakaway league, has brought hyper-inflation to men’s pro golf with its high-stakes events. This has put pressure on established tours like the PGA Tour, which now needs to pay for the string of expensive tournaments it has introduced in response. The framework agreement was announced in June 2023, but its ratification has faced delays and challenges.

The deadline for the agreement is set for December 31, 2023, but meeting it seems increasingly challenging. Although legal action has been removed from the equation, there are still battles to be fought with the American government, which is closely scrutinizing the PGA Tour’s plans to receive massive investment from Saudi Arabia. Additionally, incorporating a team aspect with franchises into an already crowded golf calendar poses another challenge.

Another factor that adds to the complexity of the situation is the emergence of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s new ‘Tech Golf League’ (TGL). The TGL is a Monday night simulator golf show that will further fill up the schedule starting in January. The limited availability of players due to time constraints makes it difficult to accommodate LIV golf, PGA Tour golf, DP World Tour golf, and TGL in one schedule.

Eddie Pepperell, a DP World Tour player and member of the European Tour’s tournament committee, expressed doubts about the feasibility of the framework agreement and the challenges of finding a workable solution. He mentioned the time constraints on players, especially with the emergence of the TGL, as a major obstacle.

There is a growing sentiment among players and high-ranking officials that an agreement that satisfies all parties involved may not be achievable. The uncertainty surrounding the framework agreement has wider implications, particularly for players who have joined the LIV Tour. Despite the financial rewards, these players face challenges in maintaining their world rankings and gaining eligibility for major tournaments.

The issue of official world ranking points has become a bargaining chip for LIV Tour, as their players are currently denied those points. This currency is crucial for providing players with a route into majors. The dilemma arises when considering the merits of a professional golfer based on 54-hole golf played by a limited field with guaranteed money and no cuts. While some players like Brooks Koepka have excelled in LIV events, others have struggled to make an impact in the majors.

Looking ahead to 2024, schedules are already in place, and men’s pro golf will once again be divided. The prospect of bringing the sport back together seems challenging at the moment. The future of golf remains uncertain, and it will require careful planning and collaboration to ensure the long-term success and viability of the sport.

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