Webb Simpson offers to resign from PGA Tour board. But only if McIlroy replaces him, AP source says

A plan is in place for Rory McIlroy to rejoin the PGA Tour board, a move that would require the board’s approval and could be viewed as a chance to help to improve stalled negotiations with the Saudi financial backers of LIV Golf.

McIlroy resigned from the board in November, saying he felt he could no longer commit the time and energy required with the PGA Tour trying to finalize an agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

The deal with PIF was not finalized, and the PGA Tour instead took on Strategic Sports Group as a minority investor in a deal that could be worth as much as $3 billion.

Webb Simpson, one of the six player directors on the PGA Tour board and PGA Tour Enterprises board, has submitted a letter saying that he wants to resign as a player director but only if McIlroy replaces him, according to a person who has seen the letter.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the letter was not made public. The board is expected to discuss Simpson’s request as early as Wednesday.

PGA Tour Enterprises is the new commercial entity, though six players serve on both boards.

McIlroy’s resignation in November required the other five player directors — Simpson, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott and Peter Malnati — to elect a player to serve out the term through 2024. They chose Jordan Spieth.

Some of those players have been at odds with McIlroy over the last few months because the four-time major champion has changed his tune about LIV Golf and has suggested LIV players be allowed to return to the PGA Tour without penalty.

Spieth and McIlroy disagreed in February over Spieth’s comments that a deal with PIF was not needed because of the SSG investment, although it would help with unification.

The Simpson case, however, is different. He has not resigned from the board. The person said Simpson’s letter said he would resign if McIlroy could replace him; otherwise, he would stay on the boards.

The person said Simpson indicated the board currently does not have a European player — five are Americans and Scott is Australian.

SSG in a consortium of American sports owners, led by the Fenway Group, and McIlroy has an affiliation with Fenway through the new TGL team league due to start play in January.

The Guardian, which first reported McIlroy’s potential move back to the board, also noted McIlroy has a good relationship with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor.

Al-Rumayyan met with the player directors — he even played nine holes with Woods — in the Bahamas a week after The Players Championship last month. Spieth described that meeting as a chance to talk while figuring out the next step.

There have been no reports of progress since then.

A London financial newspaper, City A.M., reported last week that LIV had offered McIlroy $850 million to join, based on sources it did not identify. McIlroy quickly shot down those rumors and said he would play the PGA Tour “for the rest of my career.” But he also reiterated his hopes that golf could be unified again outside the four majors.

“The game is better when we’re all together,” he said last week at the RBC Heritage.

The hurdle for any kind of a deal has been how to unify the game. Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson are among players who signed bonuses said to be worth upward of $100 million that led to the divide.

McIlroy said last month at The Players Championship that Al-Rumayyan “wants to do the right thing” for all of golf and that LIV Commissioner Greg Norman and others have done the PIF leader a disservice.

“So the closer that we can get to Yasir, PIF and hopefully finalize that investment, I think that will be a really good thing,” McIlroy said.

SSG’s initial investment of $1.5 billion is for a first-of-its-kind equity ownership program. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a February memo that $750 million in aggregate equity would be granted to 36 players based on career performance, last five-year performance and Player Impact Program results.

Those players are to learn details of how much they receive this week.


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

Doug Ferguson has been the AP’s golf writer since 1998. He is a recipient of the PGA Lifetime Achievement in Journalism award.