Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy opted to avoid joining LIV Golf when it first formedTiger Woods and Rory McIlroy could have been offered ownership of LIV Golf team franchises as part of the proposed peace deal between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
This was one of several revelations to emerge from documents accompanying a Senate sub-committee hearing in Washington investigating the framework agreement that ended the legal battle between the tours and the Saudi-funded breakaway LIV circuit.
It was also revealed that Greg Norman looked set to be sidelined from his position as commissioner of the LIV tour.
A three-hour hearing was told there would be no need for Norman’s role if the deal goes through.
PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan was also being lined up for possible membership of the Augusta National Golf Club, which stages the Masters, and the St Andrews-based Royal and Ancient.
During the hearing, senators heard the deal with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) would be worth “north of $1bn” to the PGA Tour and its strategic alliance partners, Europe’s DP World Tour, which also signed up to the framework agreement that was announced on 6 June.
Woods and McIlroy have been staunch opponents of the LIV project. McIlroy complained of being a “sacrificial lamb” in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
“I still hate LIV – hate it. I hope it goes away,” McIlroy said at the Canadian Open when first details of the deal emerged.
‘I still hate LIV’ – McIlroy’s mixed emotions over mergerThe documents suggest both he and Woods would play in 10 LIV events, had they agreed to sign up. Woods is currently recovering from ankle surgery and his playing future is uncertain to say the least.
Their potential involvement in LIV events did not progress beyond the discussion stage.
The committee led by Democrat senator Richard Blumenthal is investigating possible anti-trust issues as well as foreign involvement in a US sports league.
Norman’s future with LIV Golf looks uncertain.
The PGA Tour stipulated the 68-year-old should be sidelined, and in testimony chief operating officer Ron Price said that if the framework agreement becomes permanent, LIV would be managed by the PGA Tour – effectively removing a need for Norman’s role, which also includes CEO responsibilities.
It was suggested that the UK-based PR agency Performance54, which plays a lead role in the running of LIV, would also be stood down.
PGA Tour & DP World Tour agree shock merger with Saudi Arabia’s PIF to end split in golfPGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF agreement investigated by US SenatePGA should be ‘ashamed’, says 9/11 victims groupOther ideas that came under consideration during the negotiations that led to the signing of the initial agreement included: a World Golf Series team event to be played in Saudi Arabia; shifting LIV tournaments to the autumn; and Saudi sponsorship of designated events on the PGA Tour.
None of these proposals made it into the framework contract. “There’s an agreement to get an agreement,” said PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne, who helped negotiate the deal.
The only substantive move so far is ending the legal battle between the rival parties which was said to be costing $100m a year.
Price said the level of PIF’s future investment was not yet known but would be “north of $1bn”.
Documents show the involvement of Newcastle United director Amanda Staveley and British businessman Roger Devlin, who first suggested the prospect of a peace deal.
The framework agreement was signed on 30 May, the day after a non-disparagement clause was added to prevent hostility towards a Saudi regime that has been heavily criticised over human rights abuses and alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks on the US. Such claims of 9/11 involvement have been repeatedly denied by Saudi authorities.
During the hearing, Blumenthal told Price and Dunne: “There is something that stinks about this path you’ve taken.” He added: “Saudi has the money, the money is why you have surrendered. I think the American people can see through this.”
The PGA Tour officials insisted that LIV could have destroyed their organisation without the agreement. Dunne said: “It made sense to put the man with the money together with our commissioner.”
PGA Tour, DP World Tour & PIF merger: ‘The deal brings peace now, but turmoil lies ahead’The officials later revealed that a “taskforce” has been created to evaluate how to compensate golfers who remained loyal to the PGA Tour rather than take lucrative deals to join LIV.
“The tour will control operations,” Price said. “The tour will control the board of the new subsidiary and the tour will be the governing body for competitive golf.”
Dunne added: “These safeguards were very important to us. We could not, and would not, have reached even this initial framework agreement without all of those strong safeguards against inappropriate control over the game of golf by PIF.”
The investigation will continue while both sides try to agree details on the future of men’s professional golf.
Any agreement would need to be ratified by the PGA Tour policy board, which lost a long-serving member last weekend.
Randall Stephenson, who served for 12 years, resigned because he does not approve of the deal with PIF.