LIV Golf’s poaching policy shows Saudis are done waiting in the wings for PGA Tour

LIV Golf acquired their biggest signing yet in Jon Rahm earlier this month, and the Saudi-backed league have also attempted to lure in a number of other PGA Tour stars too

The PGA Tour’s announcement of a peace treaty with its Saudi Arabian rivals back in June gave hope that the gloom that had overtaken professional golf for more than a year was starting to lift.

Along with Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) CEO Yasir Al-Rumayyan, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan unveiled plans for a “framework agreement” that would end the conflict between the Tour and LIV Golf. After six months, and with a deadline drawing near, peace still seems a long way off.

Following the framework announcement on June 6, PIF—who has funded LIV to the top of the professional golf hierarchy—seemed eager to collaborate with the PGA Tour, something they had long desired, even prior to LIV’s founding.

Al-Rumayyan promised to invest “billions of dollars” in golf while maintaining PGA Tour governance in a June interview with CNBC, co-hosted by Monahan. It looked like the perfect deal for the Tour, but Monahan and company might have gotten their foot in the door after looking into other avenues for foreign investment.

The PGA Tour announced earlier this month that they had signed a deal to include American investor Strategic Sports Group (SSG) in their new venture. In the meantime, the six-month-old negotiations with the Saudis are still “continuing.” It’s unclear which side is dragging things out because these talks take place behind closed doors, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see both sides blaming the other.

It was clear right away that the PGA Tour held the reins of power. They were the ones occupying the top seat at the table and had been for some time, but they might have underestimated the influence of Saudi wealth. PIF has overcome many obstacles to reach the pinnacles of boxing, football, and Formula 1 racing.

It appears that this is the strategy in golf, so the PGA Tour may want to exercise caution. Earlier this month, LIV managed to steal one of the most valuable assets on the American circuit—Masters champion Jon Rahm—despite the fact that they were soon to be partners.

The PGA Tour and PIF were reported to have agreed to a “no poaching policy” when it came to signing players from either tour earlier this year. However, this idea was quickly dropped due to concerns raised by the US Justice Department. It seemed that there might have been some mutual respect when it came to signing players for the purpose of the agreement after the attempt to initially implement the rule.

Obviously, this is no longer the case, though. Following their most significant victory with Rahm, LIV and their Saudi backers apparently pursued other players to bolster their roster, including Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Tyrrell Hatton, and Ludvig Aberg.

For the time being, all four have chosen not to follow in Rahm’s mega-rich footsteps, but the Tour organizers should take note of the warning signals. The Saudi fund seems to be growing increasingly impatient with the length of time it is taking them to reach the top of the tree the longer the ‘agreement’ negotiations linger.

Based on their player recruitment policy, PIF appears to be done waiting and willing to challenge their PGA Tour partners to show their strength. The PGA Tour has been at the top of the pyramid for a while, and if the plans for the framework agreement are any indication, having PIF support would only solidify that position.

But given that time is obviously running out and they have until December 31 to approve the deal, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Saudis increased their efforts to fortify their LIV Golf offering at the PGA Tour’s expense.

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