Get your digital marker and start crossing off days until the 31st of December, the date when the PGA Tour and LIV/ PIF are supposed to have an agreement. But don’t hold your breath.
The whole PIF/LIV/PGA Tour kerfuffle has been like one of those salad spinners that goes around and around and throws water off lettuce. But this one has gone rogue, and greens are flying everywhere.
In other words, there’s no reason the negotiations should start to make sense now.
Early on, the whole spectacle deteriorated into a name-calling enterprise of the first order with former nice guy, Phil Mickelson, and Greg “They-Don’t-Call-Him-The-Shark-for-No-Reason” Norman being the most vocal anti-PGA Tour spokesmen.
Then the lawsuits started.
The idea of agreeing to agree came up suddenly in June as a way to stop the legal proceedings and to see if there was a way for the two parties to work together.
Both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy said before it happened that for the PGA Tour to start talking to PIF, the lawsuits had to be dropped. Then they both added that Greg Norman would have to be gone. They are halfway there.
It might take another 12 months to get it done.
The PGA Tour payout for legal advice, passing electronic paperwork back and forth, and such, was bordering on $50 million, according to PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan. It could have continued to rise had the handshake between Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF, not materialized.
While most Tour players felt blindsided by the deal to agree to agree, logically, if your business has a $50 million leak and someone shows you how to plug it, you do it.
Now, the PGA Tour and PIF have to figure out what matters to each of them and to if there’s mutual ground with specifics.
The PGA Tour, as an organization, wants control of – for lack of a better term – its golf assets, tournaments, contracts, and the buildings and so forth required to make the tournaments and management of same happen. They also insist on having majority voting to determine the fate of the Tour as a whole. Adding the sixth player vote to the Policy Board is supposed to do that. It doesn’t hurt that his name is Tiger Woods.
The PGA Tour has said that they can retain non-profit status for tournaments, so it will be interesting to see how that works, particularly how it can be non-profit if there’s an overall company that’s for-profit. That sounds counter-intuitive. But that’s why lawyers get $50 million.
The Tour could form a new for-profit company to handle what could be called special events, with percentage ownership determined by even more negotiations. It could report to the Policy Board as an arm of the Tour, and that would allow the PGA Tour players to oversee it. Al-Rumayyan could be chairman of that entity, but report overall to the policy board where he expects to have a seat at the table.
As a special event entity, it could contain anything from the Grant Thornton mixed teams, to the recent World Champions Cup, just borrowing those two for the sake of discussion. It could be events that haven’t happened yet or been imagined yet. It could be the new and fun post-season season.
While that makes the most sense, Special Events could also be sprinkled throughout the year, two weeks here, two weeks there, and giving serious players a break from the grind. Maybe a tournament like the Zurich Classic becomes a special event.
For certain, it’s likely that whatever they come up with will be an add-on, but it might not change how the Tour has operated in the past. The Tour already has a framework that handles this situation.
The PGA Tour already has a for-profit part of the business that contains items like the TPC Courses. They are folded underneath the umbrella of the PGA Tour, but they aren’t in the non-profit part of it. They are separated, like church and state.
To give away the non-profit status could hurt the mission of the Tour because it does so much for them and for the communities where tournaments are held. It’s one reason the organization has been successful at attracting sponsors and, of equal value, volunteers.
Most PGA Tour events are run with a community-based, volunteer staff that shows up because they support the causes that benefit from the charity aspect. The cost to pay people to do all the things that volunteers do for a tournament would be astronomical. They’d be in the hole every week. But maybe PIF wants to pay them. They have deep pockets. But they’d lose the feel-good aspect of raising money for local Boy and Girl Scouts or hospitals or Play Yellow or whoever it is that benefits from the playing of the tournament.
While getting the PGA Tour and PIF to align is likely to be a struggle, getting a signoff from PGA Tour MEMBERS may not be easy. That is, if they have to open it up to the entire membership for a vote. There are plenty of golfers who are not in the top 30 or top 50. They want more playing opportunities and more money. They are not alone in that, as we all know. (You’d like more money, right?)
The rank-and-file, as they are often called, do not like having tournaments like the Genesis, Arnold Palmer, Memorial, and others taken away from their schedule. So, doing this agreement is going to be a little like juggling cats. How do they balance the Tour’s interests, the tournaments on both sides, the different level of events, and PIF/ LIV interests, and still end up with something that’s recognizable?
Maybe PIF/LIV Golf will become something other than what it is today.
Supposedly, Al-Rumayyan, keeper of the keys to the Saudi money, has said he wants to be chairman of the new entity and a member of the Tour Policy Broad.
He should get something for a billion or two, that’s for sure. But can he have all of what he wants?
What PIF wants appears to be more elusive. They definitely want to be on the inside looking out instead of on the outside looking in, which is where they have been in golf.
Through bad planning, bad decisions, bad advice from their team, or not understanding golf as it has been played for 400 years, PIF and LIV have become the biggest persona non grata in golf ever. They brought it all on themselves.
Whether they can fold in enough ingredients to have something palatable when it’s finished is unknown, but wouldn’t you love to be in the room when they politely fight about it? With all these fighting factions, you’ve got to believe there’s going to be an extension to get the deal concluded.
Who knows? It might take another 12 months to get it done.