Ernie Els, the four-time major winner, has launched a scathing attack on the controversial agreement made between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. After a first-round 75 at the 151st Open Championship here, Els said the PGA Tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, is fortunate to still be in position, that the Saudi-backed LIV is “circus golf” and called the alliance deal an “absolute shambles”.
Traditional tours announced the shock deal with the PIF on 6 June. Details on what professional golf will look like when terms are finalised remains unclear but Els is furious with how the sport got to this point and the secrecy attached to the talks.
On Monahan, the South African said: “If this happened in my day, in my prime, there’s no way he is around. No way. And the board has to change. You do shit like this? I’m sorry, it’s not right. Talk to us, tell us what you’re going to do, plan on negotiating. Don’t just go rogue as a member of the board and come back with a deal and think we’re all going to say yes. You’re affecting people’s lives. You’re affecting the professional game. It’s just so bad.”
While Els believes people at the top of the PIF “love golf” he has no time for the LIV model, which is based on teams and 54-hole events. “This is circus golf,” he said. “Team golf doesn’t work. It works maybe in a two-month, three-month happy season.
“Get these guys together, get teams together and play around the world. But then play real golf. That’s what this thing is all about. That’s what I prided myself on. Like Tiger and some of these guys. Getting yourself into majors. And grinding.
“For these guys to go out there and do what they did, just off the cuff, as a board member, do a deal nobody knows [about]? The commissioner is supposed to be the guy running our tour. These board members make a deal or a so-called deal and with no input from the players. It’s an absolute shambles. I’m worried.’”
Els believes a more satisfactory outcome would involve the PIF becoming a junior partner in the tour. Instead, the fund will potentially pour billions into a new commercial entity. “Does he [Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF’s governor] come in at a different rate, maybe a smaller investment, see if they are the right partner?” said Els. “Not just come in and take over world golf. That’s just ridiculous. We need to slow things down.”