According to documents obtained by Congress in advance of a Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on Tuesday, the PGA Tour and the Saudi backers of LIV Golf discussed giving Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy their own LIV teams. As part of the discussed terms of a deal that would have brought the rival golf series together, Woods and McIlroy would have also competed in 10 LIV events per year. (The upstart circuit’s chief executive, Greg Norman, would’ve been axed as well.) It is unclear if Woods or McIlroy were ever informed of the idea.
Other proposals that were discussed during negotiations included the creation of a global “World Golf Series” team event that would end in Saudi Arabia, holding PGA Tour events branded by either Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) or the Saudi oil company Aramco and grating PIF governer Yasir Al-Rumayyan a membership to Augusta National Golf Club.
Chaired by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the ongoing hearing is painting a much clearer picture of what was being discussed by the PGA Tour and the PIF before the sides revealed they had come to an agreement about the framework of a merger in a shocking announcement last month. In addition to being probed by Blumenthal and his subcommittee, the proposed merger is also being investigated by the Justice Department for possible anti-trust issues.
Power Broker Who Lost 66 Employees on 9/11 Helped Create PGA-LIV MergerJimmy Dunne joined the PGA Tour’s policy board as an independent director in 2023
“Today’s hearing is about much more than the game of golf,” Blumenthal said in his opening remarks during the hearing. “It’s about how a brutal, repressive regime can buy influence — indeed even take over — a cherished American institution simply to cleanse its public image. We’re here about questions that go to the core of what the future of this sport and other sports will be in the United States, what happened that led the PGA Tour to change its position. Was it only the hope of ending litigation or was it also the unspecified amount of Saudi investment that would come of it? Just how much money did PIF offer the PGA Tour and what other sources of money were sought as an alternative?”
It’s a valid question, as the numerous lawsuits that existed between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf can no longer be resumed as a result of last month’s agreement, whether the proposed merger ends up happening or not.
While the hearing continues, more details about what exactly the PGA Tour and PIF had planned should emerge and whether or not high-profile figures like Woods and McIlroy had any idea that they were being discussed as potential LIV owners and players. At this point, it seems highly unlikely Woods, who has only played twice this year and is recovering from ankle surgery, and McIlroy, who pretty much led the PGA players’ charge against LIV, will be joining the Saudi league’s competitions in any capacity.
However, it also seemed highly unlikely the PGA Tour would ever do business with the PIF given all of the anti-Saudi rhetoric PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was spewing. Money changed Monahan’s mind. Perhaps it will do the same to McIlroy, Woods or both.