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Tiger Woods says PGA Tour, Saudi funders ‘all want the same thing’

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PINEHURST, N.C. — As the PGA Tour and Saudi investors continue their protracted negotiations over the future of professional golf, Tiger Woods called a recent in-person meeting “productive” and said “we all want the same thing.”

“Is there light at the end of tunnel? I think we’re closer to that point than we were pre-meeting,” he said Tuesday.

Woods has emerged as a key participant in the talks that could unify the golf world, one of three players tabbed by the PGA Tour to take part in discussions with the Saudis. He flew to New York for a three-hour meeting with the Saudi Public Investment Fund on Friday.

While progress has been made recently, according to people familiar with the talks, no one seems certain when — or if — a final agreement might be struck.

“We discussed a lot of different endings and how we get there,” Woods said. “I think that both sides walked away from the meeting, we all felt very positive in that meeting. As I said, both sides were looking at different ways to get to the end game. Both sides shared a deep passion for how we need to get there. And yes, there are going to be differences of opinion, but we all want the same thing.”

Woods spoke with reporters following his U.S. Open practice round, his first public comments since the PGA Tour’s team of negotiators met with the Saudi PIF, which launched the rival LIF Golf circuit in 2022.

Though the two sides announced an initial agreement to end their bitter feud and join forces last June, more than a year has passed and it’s still unclear if the tour and the Saudi investors will strike a deal, which would infuse the PGA Tour with billions and potentially consolidate the PGA Tour and LIV Golf under one operational umbrella — or perhaps reimagine how team golf fits in the sport’s ecosystem.

The negotiations have moved slowly, but people familiar with the talks say last week’s meeting was a notable sign both sides still share a common goal. The entire PGA Tour team — which also included PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and veteran Australian golfer Adam Scott — flew to New York to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan and PIF officials, with Rory McIlroy joining remotely because he was competing in the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio.

“There’s positive momentum going right now,” Webb Simpson, a member of the PGA Tour Enterprises board and the tour’s policy board, said Monday. “Both sides seem to not only be engaged but want to continue to be engaged as much as possible. That feels good. It feels good that we’re finally at a place where I think we all want similar things. We all recognize that the game of golf is healthier when we’re moving in this direction.”

Details from the New York meeting have been scarce, but Woods and McIlroy have both characterized the talks positively. McIlroy called the meeting “very productive, very constructive, very collaborative.”

“Definitely things are heading in the right direction,” McIlroy told reporters Saturday after his third round at Muirfield Village Golf Club. “A lot of progress was made. I can’t really say much more than that, but it was really positive.”

It was the first known in-person meeting among the key negotiators since March, when Woods and others met with Al-Rumayyan in the Bahamas. And while last week marked a key face-to-face opportunity, tour officials say there have been multiple calls each week, which McIlroy said have focused on “the financials and the legals and all that.” Friday’s meeting apparently focused on big-picture matters — “talking about the future of the game and the vision,” McIlroy said, “and that was where I thought there was a lot of progress that was made.”

While the two sides have exchanged term sheets in recent weeks, McIlroy said the players are still learning more about what the PIF expects out of a deal.

“You’ve got to understand, they’re a sovereign wealth fund. They invest in companies and in different things and they want a return on their investment. That’s what they want,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like they’re getting that at the minute within golf. … Hopefully, if things progress and we get to a certain point, then hopefully they see a future where that can happen, they can start to get some returns on their money.”

Tour officials have been hesitant to share any details on the talks but acknowledged Friday’s meeting, saying in a statement, “We remain committed to these negotiations, which require working through complex considerations to best position golf for global growth. We want to get this right, and we are approaching discussions with careful consideration for our players, our fans, our partners and the game’s future.’’

Woods, 48, is in the field this week at Pinehurst, seeking a fourth career U.S. Open title. He visited the course last week to squeeze in some extra practice, his first time at Pinehurst No. 2 since the 2005 U.S. Open, when he finished second to Michael Campbell. He knows the week promises to be a tough test, with tricky greens and hot conditions.

“It’s just making sure that I keep hydrated and the mental tax that the heat will bring,” he said. “It’s going to bring it to all of us, not just me. Everyone is going to be tested.”

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