Patrick Cantlay, who helped approve a new PGA Tour investment deal worth up to $3-billion, says the group of US sports team owners involved will help decide any merger deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Cantlay was among the PGA Tour Policy Board players who unanimously approved the Strategic Sports Group (SSG) funding and creation of the new for-profit PGA Tour Enterprises announced on Wednesday.
Cantlay said ongoing PGA Tour merger talks with PIF – backers of the LIV Golf League – have a new factor to consider as they seek a final deal in the wake of the framework agreement reached in June.
“The PGA Tour is definitely stronger after having this deal go through,” said Cantlay, second after the first round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“As far as PIF, I haven’t been having any real conversations myself about that, so that’s a question for down the road for the board and also for the Newco [PGA Tour Enterprises] board to decide.”
The new for-profit group consists of several US sports team owners and their inclusion could delay any bid to reunite golf’s top players under one Tour.
The PGA Tour said PIF merger talks were making progress and that PIF would be allowed to invest in PGA Tour Enterprises, subject to US lawmakers’ inquiries into Saudi investments in US sports businesses.
Cantlay said SSG will add expertise in investments to grow the sport, but want some control in where the funds are spent.
“Anytime someone makes a sizeable investment like that, they are going to be watching over the investment,” Cantlay said. “We’ll really lean on their expertise to try to grow the sport.”
World No 2 Rory McIlroy said on Tuesday that PGA players who defected to LIV Golf should be allowed to return with no punishment in the name of having one Tour with all of the world’s top talent.
Cantlay indicated that issue has PGA Tour players, some of whom rejected rich LIV deals to stay with the PGA, greatly divided.
“Everyone’s divided,” Cantlay said. “As far as coming back, we’ll see. It’s up to a group of us. I know players feel all over the board on that issue and so my job as a player-director is to represent the entire membership.
“If something like that were to come down the road, I’m sure we would have to have a robust conversation around that topic.”
Three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth sees no reason to consider any PIF merger other than unifying the world’s best golfers under one banner.
“We’ve been so focused on this last deal that I haven’t really been putting a ton of thought into that,” Cantlay said of PIF merger talks.
Cantlay said changes by the PGA Tour, including creation of “signature” events where only top talent gathers, have helped.
“That’s what the fans want to see,” Cantlay said. “I really hope this deal brings about change that really makes it better for the fans because they’ve suffered a lot over the past couple years. I hope the product will be better for them going forward.”
Cantlay wants to end the confusion and controversy that have dominated since many PGA Tour stars left for the Saudi-backed LIV series, among the latest being reigning Masters champion and world No 3 Jon Rahm of Spain.
“The uncertainty and so much conversation around things that aren’t golf is not what people want to see,” Cantlay said. “People want to see golf with the best players in the world playing against each other.
“They want to see as many shots as they possibly can and I don’t think they want to see or hear about this extra noise.”
© Agence France-Presse
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