PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne says Saudi Arabia's PIF 'had nothing to do with 9/11'

PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne, who brokered the merger between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf, says Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund "had nothing to do with" the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"I am quite certain – and I have had conversations with a lot of very knowledgeable people – that the people I'm dealing with had nothing to do with it," Dunne said Thursday during an emotional appearance on Golf Channel. "If someone can find someone who unequivocally was involved with it, I'll kill them myself."

Dunne was highly critical of LIV Golf and previously denounced the Saudi-backed league over its ties to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Last year, Dunne said he wouldn’t want his paycheck signed by a Saudi bank and "I would not want to work for them.”

But Dunne told USA TODAY Sports that he reached out to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia's PIF, via WhatsApp to "understand who he was and what he was trying to do, and what his view was for the game of golf." The meeting that followed led to the merger, which will see the PGA, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour all operating under a single business umbrella, funded by the PIF, the financial arm of the Saudi Arabian government.

Despite the new deal, Dunne said the victims of 9/11 are on the forefront of his mind every day. "The first thing that I think about is (September 11)... and the last thing I think about at night is that," he said Thursday.

PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne played a key role in getting the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger done.

He continued: "That has not changed since that day. And I'm not alone in that. I would guarantee that every one of those family members has that same condition. It is just a reality of how unbelievably sad and awful that day was."

Dunne has a personal connection with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Long Island native co-founded the investment banking firm Sandler O'Neill & Partners in 1988. The firm later took up residence on the 104th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center, where 83 of its employees reported to work on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Sixty-six of his coworkers died in the attack. He was not present that day.

On Thursday, Dunne said he wants to "do (his) part" to make sure no one else goes "through what we went through" on 9/11, which he said "starts with communicating with people around the world."

"The reality of it is, is that we need to come together as a people. We have too much divisiveness," Dunne said. 'And at some point in time – whether it's our view of the Japanese, or our view of the Germans – there is a point in time where you have to say, let's try to get to know one another. Let's try to understand, let's try to demonstrate by example."

He continued: "'Now, I'm not taking a stance on any country, and whatever their positions on what I'm trying to say is, I believe that we should not run away from our differences. And we should get to know each other and basically make it difficult, so that we don't have to have a family deal with what we dealt with 20 plus years ago."

Contributing: Tom Schad

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jimmy Dunne on PGA Tour-LIV merger: Saudi PIF not connected to 9/11