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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Tiger Woods says Saudi Arabia’s PGA Tour organizers are gaining positive momentum

By meerna Jun12,2024

PINEHURST, N.C. — As the PGA Tour and Saudi investors continue protracted negotiations over the future of professional golf, Tiger Woods called a recent in-person meeting “productive” and said both sides “want the same thing.”

“Is there light at the end of the tunnel? “I think we’re closer to that point than we expected,” he said Tuesday.

Woods emerged as a key player in talks that could unite the golf world, and one of three players invited by the PGA Tour to take part in discussions with the Saudis. On Friday, he flew to New York for a three-hour meeting with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).

While progress has been made recently, there is no certainty when – or if – a final agreement will be reached, according to people familiar with the talks.

“We discussed a lot of different endings and how we would get to them,” Woods said. “I think both sides came out of the meeting, we all felt very positive after it. As I said, both sides were looking for different ways to reach the final. Both sides shared a deep passion for how we must achieve this. And yes, there will be differences of opinion, but we all want the same thing.

Woods spoke to reporters after the U.S. Open practice round, his first public comment since the PGA Tour’s team of negotiators met with Saudi Arabia’s PIF, which launched the competitive LIV Golf circuit in 2022.

Although the two sides announced a tentative agreement to end the bitter dispute and join forces last June, more than a year has passed and it is still unclear whether the tour and Saudi investors will strike a deal that would inject billions into the PGA Tour and potentially consolidate the PGA Tour and LIV Golf under one operational umbrella — or perhaps rethinking how team golf fits into the sports ecosystem.

Negotiations are progressing slowly, but people familiar with the talks say last week’s meeting was a notable sign that the two sides still share a common goal. The entire PGA Tour team – which also included PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Australian golf veteran Adam Scott – flew to New York to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan and PIF officials, with Rory McIlroy joining remotely because he was competing in the tournament Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.

“There is a positive trend right now,” Webb Simpson, a member of the PGA Tour Enterprises board and tour policy council, said Monday. “It appears that both sides are not only engaged, but want to continue to be engaged as much as possible. It feels good. It’s good that we’ve finally gotten to a place where I think we all want similar things. We all realize that the game of golf is healthier if we move in this direction.”

There are few details from the New York meeting, but both Woods and McIlroy characterized the talks positively. McIlroy called the meeting “very productive, very constructive and collaborative.”

“Things are definitely moving in the right direction,” McIlroy told reporters Saturday after the third round at Muirfield Village Golf Club. “A lot of progress has been made. I can’t say anything else, but it was really positive.”

It was the first known in-person meeting between key negotiators since March, when Woods and others met with Al-Rumayyan in the Bahamas. And while last week was a key opportunity for a face-to-face conversation, tour officials say there have been numerous phone calls each week that, according to McIlroy, focused on “financial issues, legal issues, et cetera.” Friday’s meeting seemed to focus on broader issues – “conversations about the future of the game and the vision,” McIlroy said, “and that’s where I think a lot of progress was made.”

Although both sides have exchanged term sheets in recent weeks, McIlroy said players are still learning more about what PIF expects from the deal.

“You have to understand that this is a sovereign wealth fund. They invest in companies and things and they want a return on their investment. That’s what they want,” he said. “They don’t seem to be achieving that in golf at the moment. … Hopefully, if things continue to progress and we get to a certain point, then they will see a future where this is possible and they will start to get a return on their money.”

Tour officials were hesitant to provide any details of the talks, but confirmed Friday’s meeting, saying in a statement: “We remain committed to these negotiations, which require consideration of complex issues to best position golf for global growth. We want to fix this and we approach the discussion with careful consideration of our players, our fans, our partners and the future of the game.”

Woods (48) is fighting for the fourth US Open title in his career at Pinehurst this week. He visited the course last week to do some extra training. He finished second at Pinehurst for the first time since the 2005 US Open, behind Michael Campbell. He knows the coming week is shaping up to be a tough test with tricky greens and hot conditions.

“It’s just about staying hydrated and dealing with the mental toll the heat will bring,” he said. “This will bring it to all of us, not just me. Everyone will be tested.”

By meerna

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