Tiger Woods faces extreme pressure before participating in the PGA Tour’s fierce summits with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

May 9, 2024

Tiger Woods faces extreme pressure before participating in the PGA Tour’s fierce summits with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

SPORT May 9, 2024

Tiger Woods takes charge of players’ voice in golf merger talks as DP World Tour frozen out

Woods joins PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Liverpool owner John Henry among others for vital negotiations with the PIF

Tiger Woods is the sole player on the PGA Tour’s negotiating team CREDIT: Getty Images/Warren Little

The DP World Tour is still waiting to be granted an exclusive place at the negotiating table after Tiger Woods was confirmed as the sole player who will be involved in the PGA Tour’s crunch summits with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

Guy Kinnings, the Wentworth chief executive, recently urged the respective parties to get “the right people with the right intent into a room to try and find a solution [to reach a peace deal]” and when asked which organisations should be in the talks he said that as well as the the PGA Tour and PIF, the DP World Tour should be involved.

However, despite Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, also being a member of the DP World Tour board – and the DP World Tour being a long-standing ‘strategic alliance’ partner with the PGA Tour – the European circuit will not have a dedicated representative at the talks which, one way or the other, will determine the future of the men’s professional game and decide if any more big names are lured to LIV, the breakaway league funded by PIF.

Woods will be part of the five-strong PGA Tour negotiating team, also featuring Monahan, board chairman Joe Gorder, Liverpool FC owner John W Henry and former Tour winner turned financier, Joe Ogilvie.

 John Henry is head of the Strategic Sports Group – a key PGA Tour investor CREDIT: Resuter/Phil Noble

Henry is in the “transaction committee” through his role as head of the Strategic Sports Group, an American coalition that has pumped more than £1 billion of private equity into PGA Tour Enterprises, the new for-profit entity set up in the wake of the ‘framework agreement’ signed with the Saudis last summer.

These negotiations will be between PIF and PGA Tour Enterprises and as the DP World Tour is not yet a part of the latter, it will not have a seat of its own. This will surely be a source of concern in the European locker rooms, especially after Rory McIlroy’s attempts to rejoin the PGA Tour board were blocked by Woods and two other player directors in Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth.

Australian Adam Scott is the only non-American on the board, which will ultimately have the power to veto any deal agreed with PIF. There are fears that US insularity will scupper the deal-making. McIlroy explained as much after revealing that “there was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason”.

However, the Northern Irishman believes that the American pros need to compromise and row in behind the concept of a global circuit, which is the obvious solution to the LIV split. “Do the American players that are used to playing all their golf in America want to travel outside of the States 12 times a year to play tournament golf?” McIlroy said. He also reiterated his conviction that LIV rebels should be able to return unpunished.

McIlroy’s opinions clearly do not chime with some of the main characters in this increasingly torrid saga.

Webb Simpson had told the board he would step down, but only if McIlroy could take his place. In a stunning move, Woods and co voted this down, meaning Simpson stays on and that McIlroy’s influence as a big voice who believes a deal should be done as quickly as possible with PIF to end the civil war, remains on the outside.

Monahan tried to play down the McIlroy snub. “Today’s news is in no way a commentary on Rory’s important influence,” Monahan said in a statement released to US media. “It’s simply a matter of adherence to our governance process by which a Tour player becomes a board member.”

That explanation does not make much sense, seeing as Woods and Spieth were appointed in much the same way. McIlroy’s rejection inevitably caused consternation on this side of the pond.

When it emerged last month that McIlroy was eager to resume his role of the board that he quit last year after becoming exasperated at the snail-pace of the negotiations, Kinnings said he would “wholeheartedly welcome” the development.

“I was always delighted to have European representation,” Kinnings said. “I think it is far better to have a global view and Rory truly has that.”

Considering the international nature of his Tour, Kinnings’ wish for a worldwide answer to unify the game is unsurprising. “The American players realising that they will have to travel to enhance their brands is something they will have to compromise on,” Kinnings said. “If we all recognise that the game will be damaged without a solution I think the players will come round.”

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