PGA TOUR COO Ron Price previews Framework Agreement discussion and benefits ahead of Senate hearing
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Written by Ron Price
Editor's note: The below article, which first appeared in The Athletic, offers a preview of the comments that Ron Price, the Chief Operating Officer of the PGA TOUR, will give in his testimony before Congress on Tuesday. He explains why the framework agreement with the DP World Tour is "not just a highly favorable outcome for the PGA TOUR, but also the clear, best path forward for professional golf broadly" and explains the safeguards that ensure the PGA TOUR's leadership position in the agreement.
The PGA TOUR is rooted in a simple mission: to showcase and reward the game’s best players, competing at historic venues, all while producing a significant economic impact and changing lives in the communities in which we play. Over the past half-century, that simple recipe has helped the PGA TOUR become an American institution, providing the most pro-competitive, legacy-driven platform in men’s professional golf.
Today, that platform is more electric than ever. This year, the world No. 1 ranking changed hands on three consecutive weeks between golfers Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy. There have been many unforgettable moments like Nick Taylor making history as the first Canadian since 1954 to win the RBC Canadian Open, the breakout season from U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark and the resurgent, ever-popular Rickie Fowler winning a recent playoff, rejoining the world’s elite.
Against that competitive backdrop, the PGA TOUR’s charitable impact continues to grow. In total, PGA TOUR tournaments have raised more than $3.64 billion for charity, including $215 million directed to more than 3,000 deserving non-profits last season alone.
Despite all this momentum, the last two years have also been defined by unprecedented conflict, one that fractured and threatened the game of golf that we all know and love. That’s why we know it was met with universal surprise when we announced last month that the PGA TOUR had entered a framework agreement with the DP World Tour (Europe’s leading men’s professional golf tour) and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia to form a new entity, a subsidiary of the PGA TOUR, that would house each organization’s commercial interests. Given the well-chronicled legal disputes that have existed between the PGA TOUR and PIF, we understand the fair and valid questions raised by PGA TOUR members, Tour partners, media, fans and now Congress. As we have moved beyond costly and destructive litigation (which the framework agreement resolved) and are now exploring whether we can reach a definitive agreement, we are committed to answering those questions and showing how this deal will benefit professional golf – particularly our players, fans, and partners.
Due to the confidential nature of negotiations surrounding the framework agreement, much of the initial reaction has been negative, colored by misinformation or misunderstanding. That’s something we take full ownership of and deeply regret. Moving forward, we firmly believe that the more the facts are discussed and understood, the further our constituents can support a potential definitive agreement — if reached — and look forward to the positive and lasting impact on all levels of our game.
Fundamentally, there are two reasons that the framework agreement with the PIF and DP World Tour marks not just a highly favorable outcome for the PGA TOUR, but also the clear, best path forward for professional golf broadly. First, the agreement provides clear, explicit and permanent safeguards that ensure the PGA TOUR will lead the decisions that shape our future, and that we’ll have control over our operations, strategy and continuity of our mission. Second, if we get a final agreement, it will allow us to further invest in the players who define our sport, and the events, venues, communities and technology that bring it to life. Working in partnership with the membership and Policy Board, we are stewards of the organization’s long-term health and leadership. Weighed against the prospect of a continued, unsustainable battle that threatened our very existence, given the safeguards that guarantee our self-determination and the possibilities afforded by new investments, “yes” was the clear answer to the framework agreement.
It’s also important to set the record straight: This is not a merger. The PGA TOUR remains intact. The subsidiary — PGA TOUR Enterprises — will include PIF as a non-controlling, minority investor, as they are in many other American businesses. PGA TOUR Enterprises will be led by a board of directors. The majority of that board will be appointed by the PGA TOUR and that entity will be run by a CEO. That CEO will be PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. The PGA TOUR's controlling interest on that board of directors will remain constant going forward, regardless of the size of the PIF’s initial or any future incremental investments. The board of directors will also have the ability to decline any unwanted investment.
For two years, the question has been, who would lead professional golf forward? The answer provided by this work toward a definitive agreement is now clear: the PGA TOUR.
That future for the PGA TOUR is significantly brighter thanks to this agreement. The PGA TOUR now has a great opportunity to advance player rewards, enhance the fan experience, grow our audience, and expand access to our game. Across the board, we have ideas that will help us achieve those aims. The investments this agreement will bring to the PGA TOUR will make professional golf more rewarding to play, and more exciting to follow.
Professional golf possesses an abundance of untapped opportunities, most significantly for players and fans. Reuniting professional golf under the PGA TOUR’s clear leadership, ending costly fractures, and investing in the growth of the game on an unprecedented scale gives us the ability to realize those opportunities like never before. As reality replaces misperception, we are confident this moment will be seen as an important step forward for the PGA TOUR and professional golf globally.