PGA Tour-LIV Golf rumblings overshadowing Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Adam Scott was one of the last players to finish his Players Championship second round early Friday evening at TPC Sawgrass, and when he emerged from the scoring room a small group of reporters awaited him.

Scott, who was 2-under-par entering Saturday’s third round, was neither at the top of the leaderboard nor had he just missed the cut in some sort of dramatic or heartbreaking fashion that warranted answers or explanations for inquiring minds.

The 43-year-old Aussie was one shot inside the cutline, ensuring him Saturday and Sunday tee times at Sawgrass, but 12 shots off the lead held by Wyndham Clark and not likely to contend for the title.

So, why were reporters waiting for him?

“I birdied 17 to make the cut at the Players Championship,’’ Scott said with a sarcastic smile, knowing that’s not what we wanted to ask him about.

This is the unfortunate state of the game we live in at the moment, where the conversations are less about birdies and bogeys and tournaments won or lost, but about business.

On a better day, we’d have been waiting on Scott to discuss his golf. Maybe how he birdied 17 or whether he felt pressure to make the cut or what his final plans were in preparation of next month’s Masters.

But these aren’t better days in golf.

That’s why we were waiting for Scott after his round because he’s one of six player-directors on the PGA Tour’s player policy board, and Golfweek on Friday reported that the player-directors are being encouraged to meet possibly on Monday with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which runs rival LIV Golf.

Adam Scott, smiling with his caddie during the third round of the Players Championshp, is one of six player-directors on the PGA Tour’s player policy board. Getty Images

The PGA Tour and LIV have been at a stalemate in terms of bringing the best players in the world together since that “framework agreement’’ between the two was announced last June 6.

So, according to the report, in an effort to move things along, the players have been encouraged to meet with Al-Rumayyan.

“If the PIF thinks it’s beneficial, we meet and I think it’s a good thing to do,” Scott said. “As far as getting on with business, let’s get on with business. I’m curious to see how that all pans out, just like everyone in the game is … just to put a face to a name.

“Ultimately, the players [will] vote going into whether a deal will happen or not. And with the seriousness of what we’re voting on, I think it is important that we’ve all met and no matter what anyone’s feelings are.’’

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan AP

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has met with Al-Rumayyan several times, the most recent of which he revealed was in January. On Tuesday, during a press conference in advance of the Players, Monahan, without divulging any details, characterized the negotiations with PIF as “accelerating.’’

Whatever that means.

The Players Championship ends on Sunday and the meeting is reportedly scheduled to take place Monday possibly at a private home near TPC Sawgrass.

Five of the six player-directors on the Tour’s policy board were in the field at the Players — Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Peter Malnati and Webb Simpson. Tiger Woods is the only player-director who didn’t play this week. Spieth and Simpson missed the cut, though Spieth indicated he may stay in town for a couple more days.

“Something needs to happen for our sport,’’ Malnati said Saturday after his third-round 66. “I would love to see a unified game where when we have events like the Players Championship, we have all the best players in the world and we’re proud to call them PGA Tour members. I don’t know how we get there, but that’s what I want.’’

One of the stickiest issues among players regarding any merger or deal between the PGA Tour and LIV is the path back to the PGA Tour by the players who took the Saudi money to jump to that tour.

“That’s obviously the thing that’s most top of mind for people,’’ Malnati said. “You would find opinions that ran the gamut, from guys that just have a line in the sand that say ‘never,’ and guys [who want the LIV players back]. So, we’re going to have to net out somewhere in the middle.

“The easiest, most likely route we go when we do find a way for guys to come back is guys aren’t coming back to the PGA Tour with membership on the PGA Tour, they’re coming back to the PGA Tour as guys are going to have to earn their way back here.

“We need to give our fans a product where when we have events like this at the best venues with the best everything, we have the best players in the world playing. We need to find a way to give that to our fans, because that’s what they deserve for being loyal to us.’’

If that can be accomplished, then we’ll be more compelled to ask a player like Scott details about how he birdied the famous island-green 17th and what it meant for him to make the cut at the Players.

Golf things, not business stuff.

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