Backing Saudi Deal, McIlroy Reprises His Role as PGA Tour’s Backstop

The finer points of the new partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudis are still unclear. But once the new company is built out, the tour is expected to hold a majority of the board seats. The upshot for the Saudis, besides the promise of exclusive rights to invest in the company, is that al-Rumayyan is in line to be the company’s chairman.

The Saudi wealth fund, which is slinging cash all over global sports, effectively forced the tour’s hand — and, by extension, McIlroy’s. By Wednesday morning, not much more than a day after McIlroy had received his initial briefing about the arrangement, he said he had “come to terms” with the prospect that Saudi money would underwrite golf well into the future.

“I see what’s happened in other sports, I see what’s happened in other businesses, and honestly, I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that this is what’s going to happen,” McIlroy said. “It’s very hard to keep up with people that have more money than anyone else.”

A measure of control over how Saudi money might race through golf, McIlroy and others figured, was worth something — particularly if McIlroy, as he said Wednesday, was desperate to “protect the future of the PGA Tour and protect the aspirational nature of what the PGA Tour stands for.”

“If you’re thinking about one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have them as a partner or an enemy?” McIlroy asked. “At the end of the day, money talks, and you would rather have them as a partner.”

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