PLAYA DEL CARMEN — The Strategic Sports Group’s $3 billion investment to partner with the PGA Tour to create a new for-profit entity was undoubtedly the golf news of the day.
Just seven months ago the Tour announced a framework agreement with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to create what we now know today as PGA Tour Enterprises. The Tour confirmed in a release on Wednesday that progress has been made in ongoing negotiations with the PIF on a potential future investment. That same release also stated that PGA Tour Enterprises allows for a co-investment from the PIF in the future, “subject to all necessary regulatory approvals.” In the original framework agreement, the PIF would’ve had the right of first refusal to any outside money if a deal was passed by the original deadline on Dec. 31, 2023 deadline.
A lot can change in seven months.
Given the PIF’s role as the financiers of LIV Golf, players were asked ahead of the 2024 season opener at Mayakoba’s El Camaleon Golf Course in Mexico about the new deal and their confidence level that the PIF would eventually join the PGA Tour Enterprises party, but even the always outspoken Bryson DeChambeau didn’t have much of any real substance to say.
“Look, I don’t know exactly how it’s all going to shake out, when it’s all said and done. I don’t know what it really means for the PIF’s position in it,” he said of the SSG investment. “What I can say is that any investment into the game of golf is gigantic, especially on their side.”
“You’re just going to see both entities continue to grow, and I hope at some point we’ll come back together. It needs to happen,” DeChambeau added. “I hope people can just put down their weapons and come to the table and figure it out because that’s what’s good for the game of golf and for fans in general. But like I said, any additional capital going into the game of golf is always positive. I’ve always said that.
“It may not be exactly what we all think it should be,” he continued, “but as time goes on, I think things will settle down in a positive way for both.”
“Yeah, that was really in the back of my mind, like really far back in my mind,” said LIV’s newest member Jon Rahm, who joked he was more worried about filling his roster for the 2024 season opener this week. “There’s a lot bigger people that are a lot smarter than me that are going to be worrying about that that actually have a say in it, and they should be thinking about it. I think we’re here to play golf, perform, and whatever comes, comes.”
DeChambeau is unsure whether the SSG news will push back or speed up the Tour’s discussions with the PIF, but did compliment Rory McIlroy for his recent comments on accepting the reality of Saudi Arabia’s investment in golf and that players who left for LIV shouldn’t be punished.
“I appreciate the sentiment that he is providing out to the public now. I think his words are from a much more neutral position as the likes of us over here at LIV have been since day one,” said DeChambeau, who was the last player to remove his name from the initial lawsuit against the PGA Tour. “I think it’s positive, what he’s saying now, and I appreciate that.”
“I’ve spoken to Rory a bit in the past week and back in December. That’s kind of along the lines of what he said to me. It’s not a surprise to hear him say that in the media,” added Tyrrell Hatton, who joined Rahm’s Legion XIII team. “Ultimately, I would like to still be able to play events on the other two tours. But we’ll see how all that works out.”
A three-time teammate of both McIlroy and Hatton in the Ryder Cup, Rahm echoed what Hatton had to say.
“I haven’t spoken to him a lot recently. But he might have had a change in thought process, as in maybe with some of the things he said in the past,” Rahm said. “I think he might be seeing that the landscape of golf is changing and at some point you need to evolve. So I think he might be seeing that, and everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it’s nice to have the support from a player the caliber of Rory, especially those Ryder Cup remarks he made early on. I think that’s an important statement for change to be said.”
While both sides of the professional golf aisle believe the game will be better when it’s united, they don’t seem to agree or even know how to get there. The SSG investment was a step forward for the Tour, and only time will tell if the PIF can get on equal footing.