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Morning 9: PIF-PGA Tour: Senate Special

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as we gear up for the Scottish Open.

1. Misters Dunne and Price go to Washington

Chelsey Cox and Lillian Rizzo…”PGA Tour operating chief Ron Price and policy board independent director Jimmy Dunne testified Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s investigations subcomittee, while representatives from LIV Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund weren’t present.”

  • “LIV CEO Greg Norman is out of the country, according to a spokesperson. A representative for the subcomittee said it is preparing to hear testimony from Norman as well as tour golfers in the future.”
  • “Dunne and Price said they believed the PGA Tour would benefit the most from the proposed deal. Dunne said that if a deal were to get done, the tour would “definitely stay intact and becomes more powerful,” and added he hoped PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan would have “a more productive role in the game of golf” in a more constructive way.”
Full piece.

2. Documents, more details, Blumenthal on the attack

Rick Maese at the Washington Post…“Many details of the deal between the PGA Tour and the Saudi investors are unknown and still subject to negotiation, but the documents released Tuesday during the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing into the surprising agreement give the fullest picture to date of what the key stakeholders had hoped to get out of the partnership.”

  • “Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chair of the subcommittee, shared a 10-page summary document plus an additional 265 pages of supplementary emails, messages and other communications that were submitted to the subcommittee by the PGA Tour and LIV Golf in advance of Tuesday’s hearing.”
  • “Blumenthal was the most pointed lawmaker in his questioning of the PGA Tour representatives — Ron Price, the tour’s chief operating officer, and Jimmy Dunne, a member of the tour’s policy board and a key architect of the agreement — urging them “to avoid the sellout that this deal appears to be” and warning that accepting Saudi money will not alleviate the tour’s woes.”
  • “Looking at it from the future standpoint, you’re not out of the woods,” he said toward the end of the hearing. “They’re going to continue to have this kind of bucket full of money and they’re going to continue to wield the influence that they do … and whatever the good intention and rhetoric is now, you still have to reach a deal. My hope is that you will resist those buckets full of money.”
Full piece.

3. Tiger and Rory as LIV captains?

Bob Harig for S.I…”Among ideas proposed by the LIV Golf League in the time leading up to the shocking framework agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia was giving Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy LIV Golf League franchises and seeing them compete in LIV Golf events.”

  • “Two of the biggest names in the game were staunchly opposed to the rival Saudi Arabia-funded circuit but were kept in the dark when negotiations took place between PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, policy board members Ed Hirlihy and Jimmy Dunne and the PIF’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan.”
  • “This was just one of the ideas that was discussed by the parties as part of documents released Tuesday by a Senate subcommittee during a hearing in Washington, D.C., led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). The PGA Tour rejected it as part of the negotiation.”
Full piece.

4. Goodbye, Greg?

Frankie Taggart for the AFP…”Among the items on the table in the talks between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf were the firing of two-time British Open champion Greg Norman as LIV boss and a new “World Golf Series” that would climax in the kingdom.”

  • “The communications, released by the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations at the start of a hearing into the controversial tie-up, gave the most detailed picture yet of how the deal might look.”
  • “Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) — which finances LIV Golf — did not ultimately agree to the PGA Tour’s request to fire Norman but the push for his ouster underscored the radical nature of the negotiations.”
Full piece.

5. More from the doc dump

Via Brentley Romine at Golf Channel…”Here were a few of the proposals for consideration, aka their wants:”

  • “Rory and Tiger would own teams and play in at least 10 LIV events
  • “Initiate a large-scale superstar LIV style team global event to include PGA Tour, LIV and LPGA players with live TV draft and qualifying held in Saudi Arabia with TV revenue flowing to LIV
  • “Development of global golf investment fund managed by PIF
  • “LIV would own vehicle for broadcast income
  • “Al-Rumayyan to become director of International Golf Federation and receive membership to Augusta National and R&A
  • “Minimum of 2 PGA Tour elevated events branded under Aramco and/or PIF flags, including one in Saudi Arabia
  • “LIV team branding to continue
  • “LIV tournaments not to compete with majors, elevated events or international team competitions”
Full piece.

6. PIF Governor for Augusta membership?

7. $1 billion infusion?

Al Weaver for the Hill…”Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the subcommittee chairman, repeatedly questioned the pair over the decision to accept money from the Saudis after vehemently opposing LIV Golf for more than a year. He also pressed Price and Dunne on the financial and human rights questions surrounding the pending accord.”

  • “Today’s hearing is about much more than the game of golf,” Blumenthal said in his opening remarks. “It’s about how a brutal, repressive regime can buy influence — indeed even take over a cherished American institution — to cleanse its public image.”
  • “While concrete details on the emerging deal are sparse, some financial aspects cracked through Tuesday.”
  • “No financial terms have been hammered out between the PGA Tour and PIF, Price said, but the wealth fund is expected to contribute a “significant amount” that will likely exceed $1 billion.”
Full Piece.

8. USWO ratings bump

Cameron Jourdon for Golfweek…”NBC Sports announced Tuesday the U.S. Women’s Open was the most-watched edition of the championship since 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2. It averaged 895,000 viewers, up 118 percent from 2022 and up 47 percent from 2021.”

  • “The 2014 event averaged 1.03 million viewers on NBC and ESPN2, ranking as the second most-watched U.S. Women’s Open since 2009 and the most-watched West Coast U.S. Women’s Open in 20 years.”
  • “Weekend viewership on NBC and Peacock – which included the first East Coast primetime coverage in U.S. Women’s Open history – averaged 1.34 million viewers, up 76 percent in 2022 (765,000 viewers) and 35 percent in 2021 (995,000 viewers).”
Full Piece.

9. Members Choice voting is live

  • Get voting in our forums now!
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Morning 9: Rory: I’m not joining LIV | Masters ratings | Nelly: We just need a stage

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as we gear up to this week’s RBC Heritage.

1. Rory: I’m not going to LIV

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach…McIlroy said neither he nor his agents have ever discussed a potential deal to lure him to the LIV Golf League, which is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

  • “I honestly don’t know how these things get started,” McIlroy told Golf Channel while on the practice range at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the site of this week’s RBC Heritage. “I’ve never been offered a number from LIV, and I’ve never contemplated going to LIV. Again, I think I’ve made it clear over the past two years that I don’t think it’s something for me.
  • “It doesn’t mean that I judge people who have went and played over there. I think one of the things that I have realized over the past two years is that people can make their own decisions for whatever they think is best for themselves, and who are we to judge them for that? But personally, for me, my future is here on the PGA Tour, and it’s never been any different.”
Full piece.

2. Masters ratings down

Yahoo’s Jay Busbee…”Ratings for the full Masters week are now out, and 2024’s version ranks as the lowest since the COVID-impacted years of 2020 and 2021. There was a brief moment when four players shared the lead at the 2024 Masters, but Scottie Scheffler took care of business quickly enough and strolled to what qualifies as an “easy” Masters victory — a four-stroke triumph that wasn’t in doubt for most of the second nine.”

  • “Perhaps as a result, Sunday’s final round averaged 9.59 million viewers on CBS, according to Sports Media Watch, a 22.8% decline from last year’s 12.06 million. Scheffler’s win two years ago averaged 10.17 million viewers. Worth noting: Sunday’s final round was down 20 percent against last year’s victory by Jon Rahm, but last year’s final round fell on Easter Sunday, which created a significantly higher out-of-home percentage of viewers — 21 percent in 2023, as opposed to 9 percent this year.”
Full piece.

3. Chevron gets purse boost

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“Chevron’s commitment to the LPGA went a step higher on Tuesday with the announcement of a purse increase to $7.9 million in 2024. The move brings the tour’s first major in line with the purses of other championships. The U.S. Women’s Open purse of $12 million paces the tour, with the KPMG Women’s PGA second at $10 million. The AIG Women’s British Open purse checks in at $9 million while Amundi Evian is $6.5 million.”

  • “Chevron, which moved the event away from Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, to Texas, last year, has increased the purse by $4.8 million since assuming title sponsorship in 2022. The company has committed to title sponsor the event through 2029.”
Full piece.

4. Shipley on “notegate”

Alex Myers for Golf Digest…”So what was up with “notegate”? During his hilarious spot with McAfee, Shipley reiterated there was no note from Woods, and that he was only looking at the moderator because he was so confused where the question was coming from:

  • “I looked over at the moderator like ‘Who the hell is this guy?'” Shipley says in the clip. “Because it just didn’t happen. I was so confused and so shocked in the moment.”
Full piece.

5. Nelly: We just need a stage

Iain Carter for the BBC…”Korda is the first American to win four consecutive tournaments on the LPGA since Lopez won five straight 46 years ago. This astonishing streak made the then rookie front page material for Sports Illustrated.

  • “Korda’s feats have yet to transcend the golfing village, and perhaps that suits her as she “tries to stay in my bubble”. But the American Solheim Cup player does recognise that more could be done to tell the increasingly compelling story of women’s golf.”
  • “I feel like we just need a stage,” she told reporters here at Carlton Woods just north of Houston. “We need to be put on TV.
  • “I feel like when it’s tape delay, or anything like that, that hurts our game. Women’s sports just needs a stage. If we have a stage we can show up and perform and show people what we’re all about.”
Full piece.

6. Photos from the 2024 RBC Heritage

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 RBC Heritage

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GolfWRX is on site this week at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island for the RBC Heritage. Plenty of golfers who competed in the Masters last week will be making the quick turnaround in the Lowcountry of South Carolina as the Heritage is again one of the Tour’s Signature Events.

We have general albums for you to check out, as well as plenty of WITBs — including Justin Thomas and Justin Rose.

We’ll continue to update as more photos flow in from SC.

Check out links to all our photos, below.

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying and join the discussion in the forums.

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Morning 9: Aberg: I want to be No. 1 | Rory’s management blasts ‘fake news’ reports

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we look back at the Masters while looking ahead to this week’s RBC Heritage.

1. Shane Ryan: Appreciate Scottie’s greatness

Golf Digest’s Shane Ryan…”This is what’s called generational talent, and we haven’t seen it in almost 20 years. Steve Stricker read the tea leaves when he picked Scheffler for the 2021 Ryder Cup—a decision that was richly rewarded—and starting in 2022, he was off to the races. The only hiccup was a few putting woes last year, but even that only served to highlight how remarkable his ball-striking had become—instead of winning, he was finishing third. When he fixed the putting, with help from a new coach and a bit of equipment advice from Rory McIlroy, he soared yet again to the top of the game, but this time he seemed more indomitable, more inevitable, more brilliant.”

  • “The sustained success of the last three years has officially made him the best professional golfer since Tiger Woods, a conclusion supported by analytics, the eye test, and every other metric you could dream up. With fewer majors, he has nevertheless leaped past Spieth, McIlroy, and Koepka in terms of pure ability. He doesn’t have their legacy, yet, but if we’re talking about peak performance, he’s already surpassed them.”
  • “He’s so much better than everyone else, which is a sentiment that is both commonplace—I saw it on Twitter over and over again—and revelatory. It’s the thing you say because there is nothing else to say. You’re left with the wild truth, which words can describe but never capture.”
Full piece.

2. Aberg: I want to be No. 1

The AFP’s Simon Evans…”The 24-year-old finished second, four strokes behind winner Scottie Scheffler, after carding a final round 69 but he certainly won many admirers among the patrons at Augusta National and beyond.”

  • “And his performance has filled Aberg with self-belief.”
  • “Everyone in my position, they are going to want to be major champions. They are going to want to be world number one, and it’s the same for me, that’s nothing different,” he said.
  • “It has been that way ever since I picked up a golf club, and that hasn’t changed. So I think this week solidifies a lot of those things are there, and we just need to keep doing those things and put ourselves in positions to win tournaments, ” he said.
Full piece.

3. Homa’s honest answer on double bogey

Golf Channel staff report…”But Homa’s tee shot at No. 12 bounded off the putting surface and into a bush. After a healthy search, Homa found his ball and had to take an unplayable lie. He made double bogey, effectively ending his bid at a maiden major title.”

  • “Homa tied for third, seven shots back of Scheffler. Asked about what happened on the fateful 9-iron, Homa offered two replies.”
  • “The honest answer is, it didn’t feel fair. I hit a really good golf shot, and it didn’t feel fair. I’ve seen far worse just roll back down the hill,” he said.
  • “The professional answer is, these things happen.”
Full piece.

4. Harbour Town ahead

RBC Heritage field notes, via Adam Stanley of PGATour.com…”Scottie Scheffler is, for now, set to tee it up at the RBC Heritage. He was clear to say that if his wife, Meredith, would go into labor during the Masters, he would head home to be with her, so it’s safe to assume that same rule will stand at Harbour Town. Scheffler has not shot an over-par round all season and has three victories (and one runner-up). He made his debut at Harbour Town last year and finished T11… Matt Fitzpatrick looks to become the first golfer to go back-to-back at the RBC Heritage since Boo Weekley in 2007-08. Fitzpatrick, a playoff victor last year, has two top-10 finishes this season. He has just one missed cut at Harbour Town over the last six years and he finished fourth in 2021 to go along with two more top-15 results in a three-year span (T14 in 2018 and 2020)…”

  • “Jordan Spieth is hoping to continue his run of fine play at Harbour Town after a playoff loss last season and a playoff win the season prior. Spieth has five top-25 finishes at the RBC Heritage in seven starts… Justin Thomas earned a spot in the field after remaining in the top 30 (he’s No. 30) in the Official World Golf Ranking despite a missed cut at the Masters. Thomas, who finished T25 last season at Harbour Town, has two top 10s on the season… Ludvig Åberg, who is tops in the Aon Next 10, will head to Hilton Head for the first time. Åberg has had a fabulous 2024 campaign thus far with four top 10s (including two runner-up results) and is knocking on the door for a victory… Hideki Matsuyama was the only eligible player who did not commit to the RBC Heritage, while Viktor Hovland – after a missed cut at the Masters – withdrew from the field on Saturday.”
Full piece.

5. Reed’s caddie’s needle

Our Matt Vincenzi…”After a particularly bad drive during his third round on Saturday, Reed’s caddie, Kessler Karain, also his brother-in-law, made a snide but factual comment to Patrick.”

  • “Your driving has cost us a lot this week,” Karain remarked.
  • “Reed didn’t disagree and told reporters after the round that there was nothing good about his round…
  • “A reporter then asked: “It’s a good thing he’s a family member, right?”
  • “Yeah, exactly. I’d probably be dragging him up that last hole,” Reed said. “I swear.Just what you want to hear as you’re looking at the ball in the tree, and he goes, ‘You need to drive it better.’ Thanks, Kessler. I appreciate it. Great words of wisdom. Drive it better.”
  • “This may be the last major for Reed for a while, as the 33-year-old has not been invited nor qualified for next month’s PGA Championship.”
Full piece.

6. LIV wants Hovland next?

Ewan Murray for the Guardian…”Rising speculation that Viktor Hovland will be the next high-profile golfer to be coaxed to the LIV tour will increase the need for Ryder Cup Europe to apply a simple qualification process for golfers on the Saudi Arabian-backed circuit.”

  • “LIV is forging ahead with plans for 2025, which include new events and the recruitment of more players from the PGA and DP World Tours. The rate of turnover is likely to be increased by the number of golfers who had three-year contracts when joining LIV, which will expire at the end of 2024.”
  • “Chatter on the range at the LIV event in Miami this month and again at the Masters largely surrounded Hovland, the world No 6 who starred for Europe in the defeat of the United States in Rome last year. Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, who also played in that team, have subsequently joined LIV. Hovland missed the cut at the Masters and promptly withdrew from the PGA Tour’s $20m stop in Hilton Head this week.”
Full piece.

7. Rory’s management: LIV reports are ‘fake news’

Brian Keogh for the Irish Independent…”A report that Rory McIlroy was on the verge of an $850million move to LIV Golf has been slammed as “fake news” by his management.

“Fake news. Zero truth,” McIlroy’s manager Sean O’Flaherty said in an email.

London financial paper “City AM” reported today that sources have told them that McIlroy “could” join LIV Golf

The paper reported that “two separate sources have told City AM that they believe a deal is close. It is claimed that LIV Golf chiefs have offered world No2 McIlroy an eye-watering $850m to join, plus around two per cent equity in the competition.”

Full piece.
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