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PGA Tour and LIV Golf Agree to Alliance, Ending Golf’s Bitter Fight

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PGA Tour and LIV Golf Agree to Alliance, Ending Golf’s Bitter Fight

The PGA Tour, the dominant force in men’s professional golf for generations, and LIV Golf, which made its debut just last year and is backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in Saudi money, will together form an industry powerhouse that is expected to transform the sport, executives announced Tuesday.

The rival circuits had spent the last year clashing in public, and the tentative agreement that emerged from secret negotiations blindsided virtually all of the world’s top players, agents and broadcasters. The deal would create a new company that would consolidate the PGA Tour’s prestige, television contracts and marketing muscle with Saudi money.

The new company came together so quickly that it does not yet even have a name and is referred to in the agreement documents simply as “NewCo.” It would be controlled by the PGA Tour but significantly financed by the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund. The fund’s governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, will be the new company’s chairman.

The deal, coming when Saudi Arabia is increasingly looking to assert itself on the world stage as something besides one of the world’s largest oil producers, has implications beyond sports. The Saudi money will give the new organization greater clout, but it comes with the troubling association of the kingdom’s human rights record, its treatment of women and accusations that it was responsible for the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a leading critic.

The agreement does not immediately amount to a Saudi takeover of professional golf, but it positions the nation’s top officials to have enormous sway over the game. It also represents an escalation in Saudi ambitions in sports, moving beyond its corporate sponsorship of Formula 1 racing and ownership of an English soccer team into a place where it can exert influence over the highest reaches of a global game.

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“Everybody is in shock,” said Paul Azinger, the winner of the 1993 P.G.A. Championship and the lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. “The future of golf is forever different.”

Since LIV began play last year, it has used some of the richest contracts and prize money in the sport’s history to entice players away from the PGA Tour. Until Tuesday morning, the PGA Tour had been publicly uncompromising: LIV was a threat to the game and a glamorous way for Saudi Arabia to rehabilitate its reputation. The PGA Tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, had even avoided uttering LIV’s name in public.

But a series of springtime meetings in London, Venice and San Francisco led to a framework agreement that stunned the golf industry for its timing and scope. Monahan, who defended the decision as a sound business choice and said he had accepted that he would be accused of hypocrisy, met with PGA Tour players in Toronto on Tuesday in what he called an “intense” and “certainly heated” exchange.

The deal, though, proved right the predictions that there could eventually be an uneasy patching-up of the sport’s fractures. The PGA Tour’s board, which includes a handful of players like Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy, must still approve the agreement, a process that could be tumultuous.

It was only a year ago this week that LIV Golf held its inaugural tournament, prompting the PGA Tour to suspend players who competed in it. But by the end of the year, even though the circuit was locked in an antitrust battle with the PGA Tour and its stars were confronting uncertain futures at the sport’s marquee competitions, LIV had some of the biggest names in golf on its payroll. Its players have included the major tournament champions Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith.

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The players were familiar, but LIV’s 54-hole events were jarring, with blaring music and golfers in shorts not facing the specter of being unceremoniously cut midway through. The PGA Tour, meanwhile, defended its 72-hole events, where low performers do not compete into the weekend, as rigorous athletic tests that adhered to the traditions of an ancient game.

The less-starchy LIV concept drew plenty of headlines, and the league won even greater attention because of its links to former President Donald J. Trump, who hosted LIV tournaments and emerged as one of its most enthusiastic boosters. The league, however, was still largely dependent on the largess of a wealth fund that had been warned that a rebel golf circuit was no certain financial bonanza. It stumbled to a television deal with the CW Network, and big corporate sponsorships were scarce.

The league accrued some athletic successes, even as its players faced the risk of eventual exclusion from golf’s major tournaments, which are run by organizations that are close to, but distinct from, the PGA Tour.

Last month, Koepka won the P.G.A. Championship, which was organized by the P.G.A. of America. Koepka, Mickelson and Patrick Reed were among the LIV players who fared especially well at the Masters Tournament, administered by Augusta National Golf Club, in early April.

Within weeks of the Masters, though, after a run of mutual overtures and months of bravado, PGA Tour and Saudi executives were convening in secret to see if there was a way toward some kind of coexistence, in part, Monahan suggested, because he did not think it was “right or sustainable to have this tension in our sport.” The result was an agreement that gives the tour the upper hand but is poised to make permanent Saudi Arabia’s influence over golf’s starry ranks.

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Monahan, the tour’s commissioner, is in line to be the chief executive of the new company, which will include an executive committee stocked with tour loyalists. But al-Rumayyan’s presence, as well as the promise that the wealth fund can play a pivotal role in how the company is ultimately funded, means that Saudi Arabia could do much to shape the sport’s future.

In a memorandum to players on Tuesday, Monahan insisted that his tour’s “history, legacy and pro-competitive model not only remains intact, but is supercharged for the future.”

That was hardly a consensus view. Mackenzie Hughes, a PGA Tour player, acidly noted on Twitter that there was “nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with.” And Terry Strada, the chairwoman of 9/11 Families United, who had assailed the Saudi foray into golf because of misgivings about the kingdom after the 2001 terrorist attacks, said Monahan and the tour had “become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation.”

The tour and the wealth fund both had incentives to forge an agreement, besides the prospect of concluding a chaotic chapter marked by allegations of betrayal and greed.

LIV had faced setbacks in civil litigation against the PGA Tour that threatened to drag al-Rumayyan into sworn testimony and force the wealth fund to turn over documents that could have become public. The tour has been under scrutiny from Justice Department antitrust investigators, who had examined in recent months whether the tour’s tactics to counter LIV had undermined golf’s labor market.

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The litigation between the tour and LIV will end under the terms of the agreement announced Tuesday. The fate of the antitrust inquiry was less clear — experts said the new arrangement would not automatically immunize the tour from potential legal trouble — but LIV’s standing as its leading cheerleader evaporated.

For this year, the world’s professional golfers are unlikely to see seismic changes in their schedules or playing formats, with LIV and the PGA Tour expected to hold competitions as planned. There may be far more consequential changes later, though, chiefly because the new PGA Tour-controlled company will determine whether and how LIV’s team-oriented format might be blended with the tour’s more familiar offerings.

LIV players are expected to have pathways to apply for reinstatement to the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour, circuits from which some had resigned when faced with fines and suspensions, but they could face residual penalties for leaving in the first place. Through a spokeswoman, Greg Norman, the two-time major tournament champion who has been LIV’s commissioner, declined to be interviewed on Tuesday.

No matter what comes of the LIV brand or style, Tuesday’s announcement is a singular milestone in the Saudi quest to become a titan in global sports. With the deal, the kingdom can move, at least in golf, from a well-heeled disrupter to a seat of power at the establishment’s table.

Saudi officials have repeatedly denied that political or public relations motives undergird their eager pursuit of sports investments. Instead, they have framed the investments as necessary for shoring up the resource-rich kingdom’s finances and to enhance its standing on the world stage.

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Beyond its imprint on golf, the wealth fund previously purchased Newcastle United, a potent English soccer team, and a company with close ties to the fund has eyed investments in cricket, tennis and e-sports. And Saudi Arabia has tried to become a host of major sporting events, from boxing matches to its pending bid to host the World Cup in 2030.

But when Saudi Arabia barged into golf last year, it was nearly unthinkable that al-Rumayyan would so swiftly become a formal ally of Monahan and the sport’s other power brokers.

“Anybody who thought about it logically would see that something was going to have to happen,” Adam Hadwin, a PGA Tour player, said on Tuesday. It was inconceivable, he suggested, that the world’s best players would only compete against each other at the four major tournaments, but an armistice “happening this quick and in this way is surprising.”

For much of the last year, LIV players have deflected questions about Saudi Arabia’s history on human rights and other matters that helped make the kingdom’s surge into golf an international flashpoint. They were, they often said, merely golfers and entertainers.

Until Tuesday, Monahan had tried to use the stain of Saudi Arabia to undercut the new league and its golfers.

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“I would ask any player that has left, or any player that would ever consider leaving: Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?” he said last year.

On Tuesday, when Monahan declared that the leaders of golf’s factions had “realized that we were better off together than we were fighting or apart,” it was his tour’s players facing questions about lucrative connections to Riyadh.

“I’ve dedicated my entire life to being at golf’s highest level,” Hadwin, the tour player, said. “I’m not about to stop playing golf because the entity that I play for has joined forces with the Saudi government.”

Reporting was contributed by Andrew Das, Kevin Draper, Lauren Hirsch, Eric Lipton, Victor Mather, Ahmed Al Omran and Bill Pennington.

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Seize The Grey wins 149th Preakness Stakes; Mystik Dan finishes 2nd

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Seize The Grey wins 149th Preakness Stakes; Mystik Dan finishes 2nd

Seize The Grey won the 149th Preakness Stakes Saturday, closing at 9-1 odds, one of the longest shots on the board.

Mystik Dan, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, made a move late, but finished second in the field of eight horses running in the $2 million, 1 3/16-mile race. 

It was a wire-to-wire victory for Seize The Grey, who led by several lengths at the ¾-mile mark, with Imagination trailing closely behind.

Jockey Jaime Torres, riding Seize the Grey, celebrates after winning the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course May 18, 2024, in Baltimore.  (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

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Mystik Dan and Imagination both crept up, and as much as Mystik Dan tried to maneuver past the leader, nothing worked. Seize The Grey crossed the finish line first.

D. Wayne Lukas, 88, became the oldest trainer to win the Preakness, his seventh victory in the race, one shy of Bob Baffert’s record.

The original favorite, Muth, trained by the controversial Baffert, was scratched earlier this week due to a spiking fever. That led to Mystik Dan becoming the favorite in his quest to be the first Triple Crown winner since Justify in 2018.

Seize The Grey winning preakness

Jockey Jaime Torres, riding Seize the Grey, celebrates after winning the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course May 18, 2024, in Baltimore.  (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Muth opened as the 8-5 favorite, ahead of Mystik Dan at 5-2 (he later closed at 2-1). Baffert said the horse was ruled out after reaching a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit roughly 12 hours after arriving at the racecourse.

It was unknown for a bit whether Mystik Dan would run after his Kentucky Derby victory, but ownership decided he was good to go.

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No one in the race’s 149-year history has saddled more horses in the Preakness than Lukas with 48 since debuting in 1980. He had two this time, with Just Steel finishing fifth.

Preakness sign

The wind vane at Pimlico Race Course ahead of the 147th Preakness Stakes May 18, 2022, in Baltimore.  (Getty Images)

Baffert was at Pimlico after missing his third straight Kentucky Derby due to suspension. He is slated to be back at Churchill Downs in 2025. His National Treasure won last year’s Preakness.

The final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will take place at Saratoga Race Course June 8.

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.

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Demare Dezeurn beats loaded Masters Meet field for 100 win

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Demare Dezeurn beats loaded Masters Meet field for 100 win

Demare Dezeurn had many spectators at Moorpark High shaking their heads in amazement Saturday at the Masters Meet, where the Southern Section’s best athletes across all divisions compete for berths in next week’s state track and field finals at Buchanan High in Clovis.

The Bishop Alemany freshman beat a loaded field in the boys’ 100-meter dash, getting out of the blocks first and maintaining his lead down the straightaway to win in a wind-aided 10.36 seconds.

“I was very surprised because I’ve been battling injuries but I’ve worked a lot on my start, and when I saw I was in the lead I kept putting my foot to the pedal,” said Dezeurn, who beat Long Beach Poly freshman Benjamin Harris (10.43) and Los Alamitos junior Devin Bragg (10.47). “It’s my PR and I also got the school record, so it’s great motivation going into the state meet.”

It was more vindication for Dezeurn, who won the 100 in a wind-legal 10.47 seconds at the Mt. SAC Relays in April and won the event in 10.54 at the Division 4 finals last week after placing third at the Arcadia Invitational in 10.43.

All nine entrants in the girls’ 100 qualified for state, paced by Gardena Serra senior Mia Flowers (11.46), Royal sophomore Olivia Kirk (11.54), Canyon Country Canyon senior Mikaela Warr (11.54), Chaparral junior Keelan Wright (11.56) and Oaks Christian senior Nia Clayton (11.59).

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The first race of the day pitted Division 2 winner Calabasas against Division 1 winner Poly in the girls’ 4×100 relay, and the top two teams in the state battled to the finish line with Coyotes sophomore Marley Scoggins edging Jackrabbits sophomore Brooklyn Lee on the anchor leg. Calabasas’ time of 45.71 seconds was the fastest yet for the foursome of Lahela Ray, Paige Porter, Zoe Ray and Scoggins.

“It was about even when I got the baton, but I got out quickly and didn’t want anyone to catch me,” Scoggins said. “I could hear the crowd getting louder and louder. Our goal for state is 45.5.”

Poly, which also was runner-up to Calabasas at Mt. SAC, clocked 45.95.

In the boys’ 4×100, Tre Hernandez ran a sizzling anchor leg for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (41.27), which edged Poly (41.38) for first.

Notre Dame’s Tre Fernandez, left, and Poly’s Donte Wright Jr. sprint to the finish in the Masters Meet’s 4×100 relay. Notre Dame won in 41.27.

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(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Ventura junior Sadie Engelhardt breezed to victory in the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes 45.05 seconds, separating herself from the pack on the last lap to win by 1.61 seconds over Braelyn Combe of Santiago. Afterward, she seemed just as happy to see teammate Tiffany Sax (4:50.87) also qualify for state.

“This race was more about staying out of trouble and making sure there was no one on my heels,” said Engelhardt, who became the first girl in state history to win both the 800 and 1,600 at the state meet last spring and set the national high school federation 1,600 record of 4:29.86 at Mt. SAC. “At the last Masters Meet, five people tripped and I didn’t want it to be me.”

Could she set another record at the state meet?

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“If the conditions align … it’s usually hot and windy in Clovis,” she said, a week after claiming the Southern Section Division 2 title in the 1,600 in 4:46.86. “My coach does a good job of monitoring my workouts so I’m ready to run my best.”

Later, Engelhardt and Sax teamed with Aeolo Curtis and Melanie True to win the 4×800 relay in 9:02.57, and Cathedral (7:42.19) outdueled San Clemente (7:43.92) in the boys’ race.

Sadie Engelhardt (left) leads the pack in the 1600 meters at Saturday's Masters Meet. She won the race in 4:45.05.

Sadie Engelhardt (left) leads the pack in the 1600 meters at Saturday’s Masters Meet. She won the race in 4:45.05.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

In the boys’ 1,600, all 12 runners were tightly grouped until the last 200 meters, when Beckman’s Ibzan Felix and Ventura’s Anthony Fast Horse made their moves and ran stride by stride to the finish. Felix won by one hundredth of a second in 4:09.77.

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Chaparral’s Wright won the girls’ 200 in 23.48 and Eastvale Roosevelt senior Jeremiah Harris won the boys’ 200 in 21.22, just ahead of Poly’s Julius Johnson (21.25) and Harris (21.27) and Los Alamitos’ Bragg (21.28).

Santiago junior Rylee Blade won the 3,200 by more than five seconds in 10:15.00 and is poised to repeat as eight-lap champion. She won the event by 20 seconds in a state-record 10:02.19 at last year’s state finals.

Notre Dame sophomore JJ Harel won the boys’ high jump at 6 feet 10 inches and Great Oak junior Nicolas Alexis was first in the long jump with a leap of 23-1. Taking the shotput with a throw of 62-0½ was Garden Grove Pacifica senior Zach Lewis.

Long Beach Wilson junior Loren Webster won the girls’ long jump with a mark of 19-3¼ and Ventura’s Valentina Fakrogha won the high jump at a height of 5-8.

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2014 Boston Marathon winner receives prize money from stranger

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2014 Boston Marathon winner receives prize money from stranger

Ten years and one month after Buzunesh Deba finished as the rightful winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, she was finally given the prize money she never received — but it didn’t come from the Boston Athletic Association.

Rather, it came from a stranger.

When Deba crossed the finish line on Boylston Street in 2014, she didn’t receive international praise, the ceremonial gold wreath or the purse of $100,000 ($75,000 for winning plus $25,000 for breaking the course record). Rather, those honors and winnings went to Rita Jeptoo, who crossed the finish line first that year, but whose victory was stripped by the BAA in 2016 after a failed drug test.

Deba finished just over one minute behind Jeptoo for second place that day, but her time of 2:19:59 still shattered the previous course record set by Margaret Okayo in 2002.

But while Deba’s name replaced Jeptoo’s in the history books after the failed test, the money never appeared in Deba’s bank account.

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Despite Jeptoo’s record being scrubbed and her name being tarnished, her winnings have never been reclaimed. Similar cases have unfolded with the Chicago Marathon, where Liliya Shobukhova won the race three times for a total of $265,000 before she was caught doping. Like with Jeptoo, no money has ever been recovered from Shobukhova.

That is until Doug Guyer gave her the money out of his own pocket. Guyer, a businessman from Philadelphia, personally paid Deba her $75,000 after reading an article in The Wall Street Journal in April about her never receiving her winnings.

“We cried. I called my mother to tell her and she was so happy,” Deba told The Athletic in an email.

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Deba, who has competed internationally for Ethiopia, is based in the Bronx, N.Y., with her husband and two children.

She found success at the 2014 New York City Marathon, where she finished ninth, and returned to Boston in 2015, where she finished third.

But for Deba, that 2014 win remains the pinnacle of her career. And for her family, those winnings were sorely needed.

“It means so much. It allows me to train again. We don’t have a sponsor. We have to pay for everything,” she said. “And I have two children. The money will go to my training and my family. We are so grateful. We have waited so long for this and almost gave up. God bless Mr. Doug.”

Guyer, who played football at Boston College and was beaten out for the starting quarterback spot by Doug Flutie in 1981, told the Boston Globe, “It was just about righting a wrong that’s been wrong for 10 years.”

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Guyer said he’ll consider sending the $25,000 course record bonus if the BAA doesn’t.

The BAA said in a statement it is in “pursuit of reclaiming prize money awards from Rita Jeptoo” and plans to pay Deba her winnings when the association receives them. The organization said it is backed by policies held by World Athletics and supported by World Marathon Majors.

“The BAA is still pursuing Ms. Jeptoo to recover the prize money for Ms. Deba, which the BAA believes would be a just and fair result for her and all runners who follow the rules,” a BAA spokesperson said.

Deba said she was skeptical of Jeptoo’s performance from the day of the 2014 race, saying she wondered why Jeptoo wasn’t tired when she crossed the finish line.


Deba looks over her shoulder on the home stretch of Boylston Street during the 2014 Boston Marathon. (Photo: Dina Rudick / Getty Images)

But when Deba was told in 2016 that she was the winner, she couldn’t believe it.

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“I was in my apartment and I jumped up and down. It was my biggest win,” she said. “Not only was I the champion but I was also the course record holder.”

Despite her decade of waiting for her proper winnings, Deba said she’s never held bitterness against the BAA. Instead, she considers the organization “like family.”

While she took her story public in April, in the weeks before the 10-year anniversary of her win, she held back from sharing it so for many years because she trusted the BAA would do right by her. She also feared that if she said something she would not be invited back to the prestigious race.

“This started when my friend came to my apartment and looked at my second-place trophy and asked, ‘What’s this? Where’s your real trophy?’ I told her that they never sent one to me,” Deba said. “She was so upset for me. We wrote to them and I eventually got my medals. Then they asked me to come to a celebration for the 10 year winners. She told me that I should see what they planned to do about the money.”

In response to The Wall Street Journal story, fans from around the world came to Deba’s defense, with many even willing to crowdfund her winnings.

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“I am so grateful to know that so many people are behind me,” Deba said. “It is important that people know how hard I worked to win. This is my job. I was not begging for something that wasn’t mine. A lot went into winning and I am glad to see that the community agrees with me.”

It wasn’t until after the April article was published that the BAA responded about trying to move her case forward, Deba said.

And yet, that doesn’t diminish her adoration for the race or even deter her from wanting to return to the world’s most famous marathon.

“It is still my dream to come back and not only run but win Boston,” she said.

Required reading

(Photo: John Blanding / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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