Now that the PGA Tour’s new for-profit entity will receive a $3 billion investment from the Strategic Sports Group (SSG), Jordan Spieth believes the tour should shy away from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Spieth, a policy board member, feels that an alliance with the PIF is unnecessary, despite the current schism between the tour and LIV Golf, which the PIF bankrolls.
“I don’t think that it’s [an agreement with PIF] needed,” Spieth said ahead of this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“At this point, if the PIF were interested in coming in on terms that our members like and/or the economic terms are at or not beyond SSGs… I think that’s where the discussions will start.”
Spieth’s comments Wednesday are interesting considering the PGA Tour said it would continue to hold negotiations with the PIF. The tour’s deal with SSG allows for a co-investment with the PIF, as noted in a memo released to players Wednesday.
Last June, the tour and the DP World Tour entered into a framework agreement with the PIF to work towards a unified professional game. The idea of unification is still a pipe dream, as the game remains divided.
“We have a strategic partner that allows the PGA Tour to go forward the way it’s operating right now without anything else, with the option of other investors,” Spieth added.
“Whether [the PIF] or somebody else, that will be a decision [later].”
Spieth then admitted that members of the PGA Tour remain split about a possible investment from PIF, noting that players feel strongly “on both sides.”
Earlier in the week, Rory McIlroy completely changed his tune, saying that suspended LIV golfers should be allowed to “come back” to the PGA Tour. He has also called for a unified, global tour, where the best players traverse the world competing against one another.
“That’s Rory’s viewpoint,” Spieth said.
“I could name some guys with the same viewpoint; I could name some guys with a totally opposite viewpoint. So it’s certainly mixed on how players feel about that.”
Plenty of details still need to be ironed out between the tour and the PIF, including an investigation from the Department of Justice (DOJ) relating to antitrust violations.
The Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations (PSI), which is the oldest subcommittee in the United States Senate, has also subpoenaed members of the PIF, including PIF governor Yasir al-Rumayyan, for its business deals in the United States.
“As I mentioned earlier, we have members that feel strongly on both sides, so that would [need to] be resolved—and that would be number 10 on the list of 10 things,” Spieth added.
“Any government interference would be a lengthy process… [so] I’m not sure if or how or when [an agreement with PIF] would get done.”
But what is done is a deal with SSG.
Within that agreement, PGA Tour members will receive equity stakes within the new for-profit entity, PGA Tour Enterprises.
“I think the coolest thing about [the deal with SSG] is the players are now owners,” Spieth said.
“Not only do they benefit from the tour, but they now are equity owners, so they want to push it themselves. They want to make the product better themselves. Not that they didn’t before, but you directly benefit from owning a piece. So I think that part is maybe the coolest part of the funding.”
Roughly 200 PGA Tour members will benefit from equity shares, which will be distributed based on performance and a player’s tenure on the tour.
The deal will also allow the PGA Tour to learn from SSG’s investors, who, together, have over 200 years of experience owning professional sports teams. Their expertise will come in handy as the tour tries to better monetize its brand and content. Surely, SSG will guide the PGA Tour when their media rights deals expire, too.
That certainly will help the tour today, tomorrow, and down the road, regardless if a deal with the PIF takes place.