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Golf’s moment of truth is here, and the sport is badly flailing

May 9th, 2024

Jack Nicklaus used to say that he knew before the first shot whether he’d beat whatever poor soul he was paired with that day. He’d look at them on the opening tee, and they’d be nervous, or jittery, or unsure what to do now that they were at the precipice … and he had them. The moment of truth had arrived for them, and they weren’t up to it.

Golf’s moment of truth is here, and the sport is badly flailing. Half the sport’s best or most notable players play on one tour, half on the other. They all only come together at the four majors — the next one, the PGA Championship, tees off next week — and then spiral off into their own tournaments, cashing massive checks in front of rapidly dwindling audiences.

Fans, fed up with the desperate posturing and the unending chaos, are finding other things to do with their Sunday afternoons. When , it’s time to pay attention, because something is very wrong in the world of golf.

It’s been nearly a year since the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, the financial backer of breakaway tour LIV Golf, announced a dramatic, surprise “framework agreement” that was supposed to be the road map for a new era in men’s professional golf, ushering in a world where the best would compete head to head, sponsors would be happy, and everyone involved would get so, so rich … oh, and fans would maybe enjoy it, too. Probably.

None of that has happened. The Tour and PIF blew right through their self-imposed Dec. 31 “deadline” for getting an agreement done. Both sides have done some not-so-subtle saber-rattling: The Tour decided to bring another date to the dance by getting other outside investment from the Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of American sports owners; the PIF responded by sniping Jon Rahm out from under the Tour’s nose.

No one knows exactly what’s going on, because no one’s talking. We don’t mean that in a “no one is talking to the media,” we mean that literally — apparently no one involved with the Tour or the PIF is even holding regular discussions. Guy Kinnings, the head of the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour), seemed to indicate recently that the heads of the PGA Tour, the PIF, the DP World Tour and SSG haven’t even met in any formal negotiating sessions.

“From my perspective, all I want to do is make sure we as quickly as possible get the right people around a table to talk about what can a future look like,’’ Kinnings said recently in an . “But until you get into the room with the right people with the right intent to try and find a solution, you are never going to work out a deal and, at the end of the day, this is what is needed right now as quickly as we can.”

TORONTO- .  Rory McIlroy in the spotlight as Liv and PGA merge. He was the lead player against LIV.  PGA action returns to Canada at the Oakdale GC in Toronto on Thursday.
(Photo by R.J. Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy will not be a part of the PGA Tour’s policy board, yet another sign that unification discussions between the Tour and LIV Golf are stuck in the mud. (R.J. Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The latest blow to any kind of unity came this week, when Rory McIlroy and thus wouldn’t have an active, out-front voice in any ongoing negotiations. McIlroy understandably dropped off the board last year after getting backstabbed by the Tour; he’d spent years caping for the PGA Tour only to be taken by surprise by the framework agreement announcement.

After recognizing the inevitability of Saudi wealth in sports, however, McIlroy has spent recent months advocating for a resolution, and would have likely tried to move negotiations in that direction. He’s also strongly indicated that the PGA Tour may need to get comfortable with compromising its America-centric worldview.

“If we go to more of a global schedule,” he said Wednesday, “do the American players that are used to playing all their golf in America want to travel outside of the States 12 times a year to play tournament golf, you know? That’s a consideration.”

Such sentiments won’t endear him to the Tour hardliners. But again, we don’t know what anyone’s thinking because no one’s talking and no movement is happening. We can go on rumor and speculation — McIlroy has had public disagreements with board presenters Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay — but the end result is that a voice that would have apparently pushed negotiation and global perspective won’t be on the board.

Shortly after McIlroy made his announcement, PGA Tour Enterprises — the for-profit corporate offshoot of the PGA Tour — announced its five-member “transaction subcommittee” that will negotiate with the PIF. The subcommittee includes familiar names — PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, SSG principal and Red Sox owner John Henry, and some guy named Woods — who will apparently be tasked with moving this process forward from the PGA Tour side.

If this feels a whole lot like corporate triplespeak — we’re planning to consider negotiating a potential framework for outlining the discussion of planned outcomes for an exploratory session to begin talks — well, you’re not wrong. The entire sport is still standing on the first tee, waggling back and forth, paralyzed … and all the fans want is for someone to just swing away and get this whole fiasco moving again.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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