Biggest remaining questions after Tuesday's PGA Tour-PIF hearing

Like many golf fans around the world Tuesday, Scottie Scheffler watched the Senate hearing regarding the PGA Tour's planned alliance with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

And he too came away without many answers about how the game's future global ecosystem might look.

"I just think that, yesterday, we didn't really learn a whole lot, again," Scheffler told reporters in Scotland on Wednesday. "As a player on tour, we still don't really have a lot of clarity as to what's going on, and that's a bit worrisome. They keep saying it's a player-run organization, and we don't really have the information that we need. I watched part of yesterday and didn't learn anything, so I really don't know what to say."

There was at least one eye-opening revelation during the three-hour U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing: PGA Tour chief operating officer Ron Price revealed that the PIF has pledged to invest more than $1 billion in the new for-profit entity, known as NewCo for now, that will be controlled by the PGA Tour.

When subcommittee chairman Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked whether the PIF would make additional investments, Price said, "That is in the complete control of the PGA Tour because it is a PGA Tour subsidiary. The board is controlled by the PGA Tour, and they have absolute control over how much funding they accept now and in the future."

Price and PGA Tour policy board director Jimmy Dunne, who also testified at the hearing, repeatedly told senators that the sides have only a framework agreement and that there is still a lot to be hashed out before a final deal is reached.

Here are the some of the biggest questions after Tuesday's hearing:

Will LIV Golf League CEO Greg Norman still have a job if the deal gets done?

It wasn't a surprise to learn that PGA Tour executives were pushing for Norman to be removed during early negotiations. A May 25 side letter to the framework agreement proposed by the PGA Tour, which was released by the subcommittee, revealed that the tour wants Norman and Performance54, a London-based marketing and consultant group that is helping run the LIV Golf League, out of the equation once the deal is finalized.

Talking points drafted for PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan for his announcement of the June 6 deal to the policy board noted that "Norman will be assigned to an advisory role determined by the PIF when the PGA Tour becomes the manager of the LIV Tour."

A LIV Golf official told ESPN on Tuesday that it was the league's understanding that the side letter wasn't signed and that PIF officials had rejected the idea of removing Norman and Performance54.

But Price told Blumenthal during the hearing that Norman's role will be eliminated if the tour takes control of LIV Golf.

"Under the framework agreement, if we are able to move to a definitive agreement and it's approved, the LIV Golf assets, of which Greg Norman's currently the commissioner, would move into a new PGA Tour subsidiary, controlled by the PGA Tour, and those events will be managed by the PGA Tour," Price said Tuesday.

"We'd have a complete infrastructure in place to manage events. It would make no sense to bring in that type of executive to manage what is now 14 series of events."

Will the LIV Golf League survive if an agreement is reached?

Norman has told his players and staff that the LIV Golf League is a standalone entity and that scheduling is taking place for 2024 and beyond. LIV Golf stars Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau told ESPN at last month's U.S. Open that PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan told them the league would continue play in 2024.

In early drafts of the framework agreement, which were released by the subcommittee, PIF lawyers included the following language: "The Parties share a common goal of the co-existence among the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and LIV and the development of a successful team format through LIV. Subject to the execution of the Definitive Agreements, (a) the Partnership as manager would undertake a full and objective evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and would create a business plan for team golf and determine how best to integrate team golf through LIV into PGA Tour and DP World Tour events going forward and (b) PIF, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour would further cooperate in good faith with respect to matters such as scheduling, marketing and media rights."

There were eight drafts exchanged between May 16 and May 30, and the language about LIV Golf's future changed dramatically in the executed version. Most notably, the references to "through LIV" were omitted.

The executed agreement says: "NewCo will undertake a full and objective empirical data-driven evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf in general, and PIF, the PGA TOUR and the DP World Tour will work together in an effort to determine how best to integrate team golf into PGA TOUR and DP World Tour events going forward."

The executed agreement goes on to say that the NewCo board, with Monahan's recommendation, will determine the entity's ongoing plan and strategy regarding all operations. So, as Dunne told ESPN in an interview last month, LIV Golf's future seems to be in Monahan's hands.

Will a non-disparagement clause be included in a final agreement?

A broad non-disparagement clause, which was included in the final agreement by the Saudis the night before it was signed, was a sticking point for Blumenthal and a handful of other senators during the hearing.

The clause reads: "Each Party agrees and covenants that it will not at any time, directly or indirectly, make, publish or communicate to any person or entity or in any public forum any defamatory or disparaging remarks, comments, or statements concerning the other Party, their affiliates and ultimate beneficial owners or their respective businesses, directors, employees, officers, shareholders, members or advisors."

Blumenthal asked Dunne and Price repeatedly whether the non-disparagement clause would prevent PGA Tour players from speaking their mind about the Saudi Arabian monarchy's history of human rights abuses. "That's about as broad a non-disparagement clause as I have ever seen," Blumenthal said during the hearing. "Will you commit today, Mr. Price, that the PGA Tour will not punish any members who criticize the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or human rights, anywhere regardless of this new relationship with PIF? Can you commit to the final agreement that the PGA Tour will not punish anyone for criticism of anybody in Saudi Arabia?"

Price tried to assure Blumenthal that the clause didn't extend to players. Dunne, a longtime Wall Street dealmaker, noted that non-disparagement clauses are common when agreements are being negotiated.

"Our position is that the players are free to speak their mind under that agreement and that is the way we've interpreted it," Price said. "We always take our player interests very importantly, and we would try to protect their interests."

When Blumenthal pressed Price on whether a non-disparagement clause would be included in a final agreement between the PGA Tour and the PIF, Price replied, "We would not recommend any definitive agreement to the board for approval that had such a clause in it."

Are the Senate hearings over?

Blumenthal told ESPN after Tuesday's hearing that he hopes Norman, Al-Rumayyan and possibly even Monahan will appear before the committee but that if they do not, "all options are still on the table," including subpoenas and depositions.

Al-Rumayyan and Norman declined to appear before the committee because of scheduling conflicts. Monahan took a leave of absence June 13 for unspecified medical reasons; he is scheduled to return to work Monday. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter to scrutinize the deal, and Price testified that the PGA Tour is cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice's investigation. The Senate Finance Committee, which Wyden chairs, is unlikely to hold hearings on the matter, according to sources.

"We have learned a lot," Blumenthal said during the hearing. "And we have also learned that we need to learn more. And so we're going to continue this inquiry, we're going to ask that the other potential witnesses that we've invited actually come and share their perspectives and information.

"I recognize that you cannot say you're going to walk away from this deal, but I hope you bargained hard. And we will continue this inquiry because I think uncovering more of the facts and shining a spotlight on what is really happening here is in the national interest and it's part of our obligation."

Will the deal get done?

There were no indications during Tuesday's hearing that Congress will attempt to block the PGA Tour from doing business with the Saudis. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioned why the federal government was putting its nose in a private business matter, and ranking subcommittee member Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was concerned that the hearing might disrupt negotiations.

"The parties are in the midst of what should be a private negotiation, and there is no deal to review," Johnson said. "There is nothing wrong with the PGA Tour negotiating its survival. Negotiations are often delicate -- mostly private -- and I fear Congress getting involved at this stage could have negative consequences."

Along with the DOJ's Antitrust Division, which could attempt to block the deal, the proposed plan could also be scrutinized by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency committee of nine Cabinet-level officials who review transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person or entity. Regulators in Europe could also take a close look.

The deal must still be approved by the PGA Tour's policy board, which, in addition to Dunne, includes chairman Ed Herlihy, independent directors Mark Flaherty and Mary Meeker, and player directors Patrick Cantlay, Charley Hoffman, Peter Malnati, Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson.

Another independent director, former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, resigned Saturday, telling the board in his resignation letter that he had "serious concerns" about the proposed alliance, which he could not "objectively evaluate or in good conscience support, particularly in light of the U.S. intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi."

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a U.S. resident, was assassinated in 2018 by agents of the Saudi government, according to U.S. and United Nations intelligence reports. Al-Rumayyan would become an independent director on the PGA Tour's policy board if a deal with the PIF is finalized.

ESPN's Tisha Thompson contributed to this report.