Jordan Spieth praises PGA Tour, SSG partnership but doesn’t believe Saudi PIF involvement is needed

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Jordan Spieth’s term as a player director may only last three months when all is said and done, but it has come at one of the busiest times in PGA Tour history. Stepping into the role this past fall when Rory McIlroy resigned, and leaving the post next month when either Kevin Streelman or Camilo Villegas win the election to replace him, Spieth has been at the center of the conversation surrounding the PGA Tour’s investment deal with the Strategic Sports Group, which was made official Wednesday.
The SSG plans to initially invest $1.5 billion, and upwards of $3 billion, into the PGA Tour’s new commercial arm, PGA Tour Enterprises, with a piece of the equity pie left solely for the players. Not only will these United States-based investors bring their wallets to the table, but perhaps more importantly, they will bring their experience from leagues such as the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.
“I think the coolest thing about it is the players are now owners,” Spieth said ahead of the 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “So not only do they benefit with the Tour, 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.
“Obviously, having some big guns behind us, some backup and the strategy that this group offers was actually something that was very important when we were looking at it,” he continued. “So to have — I think it’s, like, 200 years of sports owning experience — the idea they can help navigate in our future how content will be consumed when our next media deals are up, stuff like that, to have these partners in perpetuity, I don’t think that can be overlooked. You talk about the funding, but really the strategies that they can have in navigating that space will be very important.”
The SSG is made up of titans from the sports world like Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins and Liverpool FC. Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, is an investor and will reportedly serve on the board of PGA Tour Enterprises. There’s Mark Attanasio of the Milwaukee Brewers, Wyc Grousbeck of the Boston Celtics, and even Lebron James is attached given his ties to FSG.
Spieth says fans want stability
What these investors have accomplished in their professional careers is noteworthy, but what they aim to accomplish in professional golf still remains a mystery. Profits, sure. Increased shareholder value, you have my attention. But what about for those who have arguably suffered the most through this civil war? What about the fans who haven’t made millions from the fracturing of the sport?
“I think stability would be something,” said Spieth. “I would say that the idea that there’s been any kind of negativity within our membership — within the fanbase, sponsors, whatever that may be — I hope that this starts to turn the corner and recognize that we’re in a place where we could be better than we’ve ever been as a tour.
“It’s the premier place to play professional golf, and these partners will help us continue to make it that way and will have some impact while the membership will still have the majority of the impact on what that can look like going forward,” he continued. “The fact that it will be collective and very up front … they want to talk to us, they want to know what we want to know, we want to know what they can do. And just the talent, we can only go so far just playing golf. I think that it should be extremely positive at this point that the ship’s turning and it can only go on the right way from here .”
The first step toward stability would presumably be unification. Some of the PGA Tour’s biggest events will go head to head against LIV Golf events in 2024, with this week marking the first instance. While 18 of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are playing at Pebble Beach, the likes of Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson will be playing at Mayakoba.
PIF involvement not necessary
The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (the financial backers of LIV Golf) were notably absent from the deal between the PGA Tour and SSG. It is believed that while the PGA Tour has announced plans to continue its negotiations with the PIF, the two parties remain far apart behind closed doors with a gray cloud of regulatory issues hanging over them as well.
“I don’t think that it’s [PIF investment] needed. I think the positive would be a unification, but I think that, like I mentioned before, I just think it’s something that is almost not even worth talking about right this second given how timely everything would be to try to get it figured out,” said Spieth. “But I think the short answer is we don’t have to, and I think the long answer is the positive there is a unification.
“We have members that feel strongly on both sides, so until that would be able to be solved — and that would be No. 10 on the list of 10 things despite any government interference on what they’ve talked about being a lengthy process — it would be a situation that should be ‘We should try to have [it], but I’m not sure if or how or when it would get done,'” he said.
If a deal between the PGA Tour and PIF was completed down the road, what it would look like is anyone’s best guess. The SSG has consented to the idea of PIF coming in as an additional minority investor, but that is all the PGA Tour has announced. Some players like McIlroy believe LIV Golf members should be able to return to the PGA Tour without punishment should a deal arise. Others are not so forgiving.
“I’ve asked a lot of players, I’ve done a lot of talking with a lot of players in the last couple months … that’s Rory’s viewpoint,” said Spieth. “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.”

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