The head of the organization that runs the Open Championship wouldn’t rule out accepting financial investment from Saudi Arabia on the eve of the 151st edition of the tournament at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
“If I’m very open, we are and do and continue to talk to various potential sponsors,” R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said on Wednesday when asked about potentially working with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund.
The Open Championship tees off Thursday at 1:30 a.m. ET with the lowest purse of the four golf majors — $16.5 million. Coverage begins on Peacock and continues on USA Network at 4 a.m. ET. “We had expected prize money to rise over a five-year period, and it’s probably risen three years earlier than we expected it to,” Slumbers said.
The R&A won’t consider adding a sponsor’s name to the Open, but all other funding options are on the table. “We have to have a sensible conversation about the long-term financial sustainability of golf,” Slumbers said.
“Sport has changed dramatically in the last 12 months,” he added, pointing to Saudi investment in golf, Formula 1, soccer, and likely tennis. “And it is not feasible for the R&A or golf to just ignore what is a societal change on a global basis. “
Slumbers welcomes the PGA Tour-PIF deal so that golf can “move beyond” the constant focus on money. “I am very pleased that they are sitting there and figuring it out because long-term, that’s good for the sport,” he said.
And as far as what moves could be next for the R&A, Slumbers affirmed, “We will be considering within all the parameters that we look at all the options that we have.”