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From The Players Championship: Jay Monahan Says PGA Tour Working Toward Deal With Saudi Public Investment Fund

Jared C. Tilton. Getty Images.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said his organization continues to move forward in its talks with the Saudi Public Investment Fund over a deal that would unify the two battling tours. 

Monahan, speaking at his yearly media session at the Players Championship, said he recently traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet face-to-face. 

"I recently met with the governor of the PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan and our negotiations are accelerating as we spend more time together," Monahan said. "While we have several key issues that we need to work through, we have a shared vision to quiet the noise and unlock golf’s worldwide potential.”

He was, however, very light on details. As last June's framework agreement taught us, there are perhaps five or so people on the planet who know the actual state of negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Monahan refused to directly answer questions about LIV players returning to the PGA Tour, the future of team golf, and potential regulatory/governmental hurdles the deal might face. 

He did say that unification remains the best path forward for the game as a whole—and that he doesn't believe the billions invested in the Tour by Strategic Sports Group, the American consortium of sports franchise owners and billionaires, will scare away the Saudis. Quite the opposite, he says. 

"When you bring in a group of investors in that consortium that combined have over 200 years of managing professional sports franchises in the U.S. and internationally, and you bring in that level of expertise, I think that that is attractive to the PIF, and I think that we all -- when you step back from it and you just look at where we are, and for some of the reasons I stated earlier, with the game booming, becoming cooler, becoming more mainstream, it's truly global. 

"There are a finite number of athletes, and this is a point in time, a unique point in time where unification ultimately puts the sport in the best possible position to take advantage of this growth on a go-forward basis."

Monahan appeared testy at times throughout the hourlong session. There was one particular exchange that seemed to irk him; he was asked about Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion, leaving for LIV and if he's worried about more players leaving the PGA Tour while the negotiations drag on. He said, in so many words, that he's focused on making the PGA Tour better and other things within his control. Then, a follow-up specifically about Rahm produced his most terse answer of the day. 

"I just answered your question about what my focus is."

As for his embattled reputation—he has come under consistent fire for his total 180 on the Saudi issue, going from essentially tying LIV Golfers to 9/11 to flying to Saudi Arabia to try to make a deal—Monahan acknowledged that he still has work to do to regain confidence but insisted he's the right man for the new job he'll start: CEO of PGA Tour Enterprises, the new for-profit entity that Strategic Sports Group is helping launch. 

"I can't generalize as it relates to players, but clearly given the responsibility I've been given by both boards, I have the support of our board, and I am the right person to lead us forward. I know that. I believe that in my heart, and I'm determined to do exactly that."