Bernie McGuire, Renaissance Club, Scotland.
In what was a first in the history of men’s professional golf, the ancient club-and-ball game was called to answer at a US Senate public hearing.
From the hearing that took place Tuesday morning (US time) within the walls of the US Capitol building in Washington D.C., we’ve learned all about a remarkable 276-page proposed ‘partnership’ deal between the Saudi-backed LIV Golf and the PGA Tour to end the bitterness between the rival tours.
Some of the more notable aspects of the proposed ‘partnership’ include:
- The possibility of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy owning LIV Golf teams and playing in at least 10 LIV event. We learned LIV pinned its entire concept on making team golf appealing to fans and McIlroy and Woods would be offered the chance to own teams if the proposals are approved.
- There was mention of a proposed “World Golf Series” between the two leagues that would occur at the end of the season.
- In the ”partnership’ deal there is the presence of a “non-disparagement clause” that would prevent key figures in golf from criticizing Saudi Arabi
- Greg Norman’s future as CEO of LIV Golf looks uncertain.
- Yasir Al-Rumayyan and head of Saudi Public Investment Fund will receive Augusta National and R & A membership under the agreement reached to mend the PGA Tour-LIV Golf split.
- And there was strong questions over a now defunct PGA Tour multi-million dollar deal to host a PGA Tour China series.
The Senate sub-committee hearing was chaired by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal though it must be pointed out that rival Republicans on the committee were more sympathetic to the PGA Tour and the existential threat it faced from the PIF, which controls $600 billion in assets — roughly 500 times the full worth of the PGA Tour.
”We’re here because we’re concerned about what it means for an authoritarian government to use its wealth to capture an American institution,” Blumenthal said.
The sports world learned on June 6th that all lawsuits against the rival tours would be dropped, in a move that would combine the commercial interests of both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf
Blumenthal asked of Ron Price, the PGA Tour’s chief operating officer, as to how much the deal was worth and Price responded: “North of $1 billion.”
Joining Price in representing the PGA Tour was Tour board member, Jimmy Dunne and owner of the ultra-exclusive Seminole Club in Florida.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had been afforded an invitation to attend the Senate hearing but being off work with a ‘medical issue’ ruled him out, and so too Norman who cited a ‘scheduling conflict’ while PIF Fund head Al-Rumayyan was also approached but could not attend.
“LIV put us on fire,” testified Dunne. “LIV put us in an incredibly difficult position. LIV was a constant every day. Who’s gonna go? It was very disruptive.”
The Senate hearing comes after both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf each outlaid tens of millions on litigation costs before the shock news early last month.
“We learned a lot, but we also have a lot more to learn, and we’re gonna continue the investigation because as many questions are raised by this so-called draft agreement, there are still,” said Blumenthal at the close of the hearing. “I think there’s a lot at stake here.”
Blumenthal also said in “his closing remarks that his hope is that the PGA Tour “will resist those buckets full of money” from Saudi Arabia.
“I think a lot of players, a lot of sponsors, a lot of charities, and frankly, the 9/11 families are hoping that the PGA Tour will stand up and frankly avoid the sellout that this deal is.
Meanwhile, Ron Johnson, the Republican Wisconsin Senator who serves as the committee’s ranking member, lamented that the hearing was called before a final agreement was reached.
“That’s the point I kept making is there’s no deal,” Johnson said after the hearing. “I think a lot of people jumped to conclusions that they had to announce this because they had a public court filing where the charges were dismissed. I would say, a big win for everybody other than the lawyers.”