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PGA loyalists, not LIV jumpers, to get equity in new firm, according to report

NEW YORK – Golfers who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour, but not those who jumped to LIV Golf, will receive equity shares in a new for-profit entity, ESPN reported on Friday.

Jimmy Dunne, a member of the PGA Tour policy board who helped broker the shocking deal last week between his group and the Saudi backers of LIV Golf, told ESPN that would be a way to reward players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour.

He added that PGA Tour members will get equity under a yet-to-be-determined formula in the new company formed by the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

“The new (company) would grow, and the (current PGA) players would get a piece of equity that would enhance and increase in value as time went on,” he said.

“There would have to be some kind of formulaic decision on how to do that. It would be a process to determine what would be a fair mechanism that would be really beneficial to our players.”

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, Spain’s Jon Rahm and Americans Patrick Cantlay and Cameron Young were reportedly among those who turned down guaranteed deals of up to US$100 million (S$134.4 million) from LIV Golf.

Rory McIlroy said he never received an offer from LIV Golf but other reports had him and Tiger Woods among those who could have also reaped riches by joining the breakaway circuit.

The equity-share plan would now allow for the reward promised to loyalists earlier last week by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, criticised as a hypocrite for having made a deal with the PIF after more than a year of slamming the Saudis in a bid to prevent top stars from leaving the PGA Tour.

Players who left for rich deals with LIV would not be eligible for any equity stake.

Dunne also said a committee that includes current PGA Tour players would decide on any potential punishments for players who left for LIV Golf but would want to return to the PGA Tour.

“They’re coming back to compete on the tour, so they have to be confident that they would be good enough to continue to play, and they have to be willing to incur the penalty for having gone,” he said.

Punishments for players would likely be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the 11 players who sued the PGA Tour in US federal court and those who recruited talent to LIV Golf likely to get hit harder.

In a separate interview, Dunne told Sports Illustrated that the new entity will retain the PGA Tour name and branding. Monahan, who is set to become its CEO, will have the power to disband LIV Golf if he wants.

Current LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman reportedly told staff last week that the league is sticking around long term, but he might be out of a position once LIV Golf is officially under the PGA Tour’s purview.

Details of the merger – especially regarding tour formats – are not fully revealed yet, so it remains to be seen what the future holds for the game of golf. AFP, REUTERS