Two PGA tour officials to testify to US Senate panel about merger with Saudi-backed LIV

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Two PGA Tour officials will testify before a U.S. Senate panel next week about the tour’s merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf, but LIV officials declined to appear, lawmakers said on Monday.

Ron Price, chief operating officer of the PGA Tour, and board member Jimmy Dunne have agreed to testify before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on July 11, said Senator Richard Blumenthal, chair of the committee, and Ron Johnson, the top Republican, in a news release.

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and rival Saudi-backed LIV circuit, which had been involved in a bitter fight that split the sport, announced an agreement in early June to merge and form a unified commercial entity.

The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIV). Critics have accused it of being a vehicle for the country to improve its reputation as it faces criticism of its human rights record.

Blumenthal last month asked the PGA Tour and LIV Golf for communications and records on their planned merger as part of an investigation, citing concerns about the Saudi government’s role in the deal and risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over the sport.

The PGA Tour said in a statement that the officials “look forward to appearing before the Senate Subcommittee to answer their questions about the framework agreement.”

Blumenthal and Johnson said they had asked Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, and Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund which backs LIV, to testify, but they had declined because of scheduling conflicts.

The senators said in their statement that they hoped to find “a mutually agreeable date” for the two men to testify in the future.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz and David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)