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PGA Tour, Saudis Fail To Reach Agreement For Golf's Future By Dec. 31 Deadline | TheSportsDay PGA Tour, Saudis Fail To Reach Agreement For Golf's Future By Dec. 31 Deadline | TheSportsDay

PGA Tour, Saudis fail to reach agreement for golf's future by Dec. 31 deadline

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PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is one of the parties looking to forge a new agreement for the golf world. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is one of the parties looking to forge a new agreement for the golf world. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

When the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund stunned the golf world in June with an out-of-nowhere announcement of an agreement between the two warring entities, their stated intention was to formalize their agreement for the future of golf by the end of the 2023 calendar year.

As the clock hit midnight Eastern Time on New Year’s Eve, no agreement was announced, and all signs appeared to point to a delay.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent a memo to Tour players on Sunday afternoon insisting that they “have made meaningful progress” in negotiations, and that they were trying to extend the deadline. Specifics on what that meant, or what the new deadline is, were not given.

That’s not necessarily a dire sign; the June agreement was, in effect, only a pledge to halt legal hostilities between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf. Many parties involved noted that there was always the possibility of a delay in completing a complicated merger that charted the future of the men’s professional game.

“We operate in good faith and I see that on both sides,” Monahan said in September at the Tour Championship. “And that framework agreement, which is an agreement to reach an agreement, put us in a position to reach an agreement … If you saw the amount of conversation and the time that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF are spending working forward from a framework to a definitive, I think would you see the sincerity of the efforts there.”

More recently, as it became obvious that there were still deep divides between the key stakeholders, rhetoric changed from certainty to reframed optimism.

“I am confident a deal will get done in some way,” Tiger Woods said earlier in December at the Hero World Challenge. “Whether that comes Dec. 31 or is pushed back, we’re all — all sides understand we’re working together. There are no lawsuits. Everyone’s understanding what that looks like, and we’re all progressing going forward. Everyone’s working right now with no animosity. We’re trying to work to try and get a deal done for the Tour and for all parties involved.”

However, there are external indications that this agreement might not be proceeding as smoothly as its principals would like. The PGA Tour has engaged with other outside investors, a move that would blunt the PIF’s key advantage: overwhelming financial resources. In December, the Tour announced it was negotiating with a group of outside investors made up of several major professional sports team owners.

The Tour needs an infusion of capital because, thanks to the PIF, it’s found itself in an unsustainable financial arms race. As Saudi riches lured away big names with monstrous sums, the Tour hiked purses and guarantees to its players past what it could comfortably bear.

Another concern for the two entities: the interest of the United States government, which is eyeing the agreement closely. A pledge between the PGA Tour and LIV not to poach one another’s players was scrapped due to antitrust concerns, and LIV finally took advantage of that in December.

Perhaps as a reminder that money still runs the professional game, PIF riches enticed Jon Rahm — once thought of as an unshakable defender of the PGA Tour — to join LIV Golf. Rumors have persisted that other players would join Rahm before the LIV season officially begins in January.

The PGA Tour season begins later this week with the Sentry, the Hawaii tournament which welcomes last year’s (eligible) champions and players who finished in the top 50 of last year’s FedEx Cup. The star-studded field includes every top player on Tour last year with the exception of Rory McIlroy, who’s staying home, and Rahm, for obvious reasons.

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