[PHOTO: Warren Little]
Tiger Woods is known for keeping things close to his chest, and yesterday’s press conference at the Hero World Challenge was no different. However, while vagueness was the throughline through Woods’ first public remarks since the Masters, the 15-time major winner did open the window—if only ever so slightly—into the PGA Tour’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Woods, who was added to the tour’s policy board in July by request of more than 40 players in hopes to improve transparency, sounded positive on how the negotiations are going while irritated at the pace of how the developments are being implemented. “And December 31st is coming up very quickly, so there’s the timetable there that we would like to implement some of these changes that have not taken place,” Woods noted in a nod to the original deadline for the framework agreement between the tour and PIF. “The guys, all the player directors have spent so many hours and worked tireless hours to make sure that we have the best deal for all the players that are involved, the entire PGA Tour.” Woods later added: “One thing, all the parties are talking and we’re aggressively working on trying to get a deal done. We’re all trying to make sure that the process is better, too, as well. So the implementation of governance is one of the main topics as long as—getting the deal done, but making sure it’s done the right way.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Woods mentioned a team component—a central element of LIV Golf—is on the table. “I think there is away in which we can all benefit from team golf, it’s just how do we do it,” Woods said. “We’re just trying to figure out that process now. We have been, we’ve been doing it for months, trying to figure out how that all works, what does that landscape even look like and where do we play and what impact does it have on our PGA Tour schedule. I think that’s something that we have focused on and we don’t take lightly.” It should be noted Woods is already involved with team golf in the mixed-reality TGL, which is delayed until 2025 after construction issues with the league’s arena.
Woods was also asked about a potential return of LIV players to the PGA Tour. “As far as a pathway, we’re still working on that,” Woods said. “That’s part of the deal we’re working through is trying to find a path, whatever that looks like. There’s so many different scenarios. That’s why I said there’s a lot of sleepless hours trying to figure that out, a lot of participation from the players and what does that look like.”
Along with its negotiations with PIF, the PGA Tour has been entertaining interest from several companies vying to provide financial backing. It remains unclear if this backing would be an alternative to PIF’s support or to supplement it in order to appease American antitrust regulations. Earlier this spring the PGA Tour acknowledged these discussions in a memo to its membership. When asked if it’s imperative that the tour make a deal with PIF, Woods responded, “We have multiple options, but still, we would like to have a deal done December 31st. That’s what the agreement said in the summer and all parties understand that. But there are other options out there.”
Woods did say he was confident a deal will get done “in some way”, although cautioned against meeting the December 31 deadline. “We’re all, all sides understand we’re working together. There are no lawsuits,” Woods said. “Everyone’s understanding what that looks like and we’re all progressing going forward. Everyone’s working right now with no animosity. We’re trying to work to try and get a deal done for the tour and for all parties involved.”
If that all sounds vague, well, it was. And Woods acknowledged as much when he was asked about what he envisions the future professional golf looking like.
“I would say that the answer is murky,” Woods said. I would have to say there’s quite a bit of—there’s a lot of moving parts on how we’re going to play. Whether it’s here on the PGA Tour or it’s merging, or team golf. There’s a lot of different aspects that are being thrown out there all at once and we are trying to figure all that out and what is the best solution for all parties and best solution for all the players that are involved.”