In an explosive interview with Sports Illustrated, Erne Els refused to go ‘Big Easy’ on the PGA Tour’s ‘leadership’ as he tore into what he believes is a shambles of a deal that golf’s existing tours are trying to push through with the Saudi PIF.
Els took aim at PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan’s seemingly underhand efforts to negotiate a deal behind his members’ backs with the very people he swore he’d never do business with – the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
It’s not the source of the money that Els takes exception to but how the whole situation has been orchestrated, and with details in scare supply and the deal nowhere near over the line yet, Els admits he’s worried about the proposed partnership and the leadership behind it as the future of men’s professional golf remains up in the air.
“If this happened in my day, in my prime, there’s no way he’s around,” Els said of Monahan when speaking to SI.
“No way. And the board has to change. You do sh*t like this. I’m sorry, it’s not right. Talk to us, tell us what you’re going to do, plan on negotiating. Don’t just go rogue as a member of the board and come back with a deal and think we’re all going to say yes? You’re affecting people’s lives. You’re affecting the professional game. It’s just so bad.”
It’s still hard to picture the competitive landscape of men’s pro golf should the framework agreement go through. The PGA Tour would remain but a new entity, the for-profit NewCo/PGA Tour Enterprises would compile the assets of the PGA and DP World Tours and LIV Golf, with Monahan somehow installed as CEO and Yasir Al-Rumayyan—the Governor of the PIF—sitting as Chairman.
Els, who has 70 worldwide victories to his name, and 19 PGA Tour titles to boot, knows Yasir and a number of Golf Saudi people and while he doesn’t doubt there love for the game, he hates the direction LIV Golf is trying to take the sport he’s played professionally for more than thirty years.
“I know Yasir, I know some of those Saudi guys,” Els said. “They love the game. But this (LIV) is circus golf. That’s not where I stand.
“Team golf doesn’t work. It works maybe in a two-month, three-month happy season. Get these guys together, get teams together and play around the world. But (then) play real golf.
“That’s what this thing is all about. That’s what I prided myself on. Like Tiger (Woods) and some of these guys. Playing that type of golf. Getting yourself into majors. And grinding.
“And for these guys (the PGA Tour leadership) to go out there and do what they did, just off the cuff, as a board member, do a deal, nobody knows. The commissioner is supposed to be the guy running our Tour. These board members make a deal or a so-called deal and with no input from the players.
“It’s an absolute shambles. I’m worried.”