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PGA, Saudi-backed LIV in 'active discussions' one year after announcing proposed deal that rocked the golf world

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A PGA TOUR logo is seen after play was suspended due to severe storms during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 14, 2011 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Streeter Lecka | Getty Images

The PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf have been in active discussions, according to a person familiar with the matter, one year after the two entities stunned the world and announced on CNBC that they had agreed in principle to join forces.

The talks between the tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which backs LIV Golf, are "extremely active," the person said.

The newly created seven-person PGA Tour transaction committee — which includes professional golfers Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, as well as Fenway Sports Group Founder John Henry — and PIF representatives have been meeting in person and remotely every Monday, Wednesday and Friday over the past month, the person added.

The group will meet in person in New York on Friday, except for McIlroy, who will join remotely.

A PGA Tour representative declined to comment. Representatives for LIV and PIF didn't respond.

When PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan announced the proposed combination on CNBC last June, it surprised many after a bitter legal feud between the two competing leagues.

The proposed deal deadline, originally set for Dec. 31, 2023, was extended. The tour has also since agreed to let U.S. investors enter the mix.

The deal hasn't been finalized. But the sides have exchanged term sheets, and they have mostly agreed upon the financial part of the agreement, the person familiar said, with the Saudis and the consortium of investors agreeing to kick in another $1.5 billion each to the tour. The deal will reportedly be structured like their deal with the Strategic Sports Group, or SSG, a consortium of investors. The sides are now focusing on product-related decisions involving players, schedules, tournaments and media rights, the person added.

The discussions don't mean a deal is imminent, but the pace of the process has picked up as Al-Rumayyan sometimes attends the weekly meetings, the person said.

The New York Times' DealBook earlier reported on the discussions.

Over the course of the year, the tour has tried to become more appealing to players and prevent defectors from rivaling LIV by rewarding them for their loyalty to the organization. The tour increased prize money at tournaments and created PGA Tour Enterprises, a new commercial venture that will dole out over $1.5 billion in equity to players.

"By making PGA TOUR members owners of their league, we strengthen the collective investment of our players in the success of the PGA TOUR," Monahan said at the time.

In late January, the tour announced new capital from a group of high-profile investors led by Fenway Sports Group. The SSG is injecting $1.5 billion into the tour and has committed another $1.5 billion if a deal with the Saudis reaches completion.

In May, the tour's Jimmy Dunne, who was considered one of the architects of the deal, abruptly resigned from his position, expressing his frustration with the lack of progress.

A source said that when Dunne was not included on the enterprise board, he became frustrated and felt like he was no longer needed.

Before the leagues said they would join forces last June, PIF had been luring PGA Tour golfers, including star Phil Mickelson, to LIV with deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since then, the drawn-out and tumultuous deal process has sparked backlash from players, consumers and American lawmakers — who have also probed and questioned PGA Tour executives. If the merger is completed, it could dramatically change the landscape of professional golf.

After LIV lured players from the Tour with big-money deals, Monahan had said the tour looked at golf "on a global basis" and determined that the merger would benefit the sport.

Many critics have accused LIV, which was launched in 2022, of "sportswashing," or spreading influence through sports to draw attention away from Saudi human rights violations.

After clear lines were drawn, players expressed frustration about the proposed deal, leading the tour to increase financial incentives for golfers.

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