Players' words say a PGA-Saudi deal is progressing. Others' actions say otherwise.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Every college student, every journalist, everyone filing their taxes knows there’s a reason why deadlines exist. You put a deadline on a task, that task takes on more urgency. Major challenges get broken down into smaller challenges, and smaller challenges get resolved or ignored.

Conversely, there’s nothing quite as worthless as a “self-imposed” deadline. Without the threat of outside consequences, it’s easy to rationalize away why you missed that deadline by a few hours, a few days, or — in the case of golf’s governing bodies — a few months and counting.

Nearly a year after the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced their “framework agreement” for reworking the structure of men’s professional golf — and more than four months after they blew past their “self-imposed deadline” — there’s been no action. No results. Nothing other than some bureaucratic maneuvering — the announcement of committees and the like — which doesn’t advance the cause of golf in any meaningful way.

It's telling that the most significant bit of news on the progress of the negotiations came Monday, when PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne announced he was walking away from the whole merger/framework/alignment deal. Dunne, who helped negotiate the agreement in the first place, indicated in his resignation letter that there has been "no meaningful progress" and thus deemed his role "superfluous."

That’s action. Maybe not the action that fans of golf would like to see, but action nonetheless … and action that has grim implications.

The players, on the other hand, are offering words. Many, many words. When asked by Yahoo Sports about the state of the negotiations, and the possibility that an agreement might not happen at all, Tiger Woods replied, “We're working on negotiations with PIF. It's ongoing, it's fluid, it changes day-to-day. Has there been progress? Yes. But it's an ongoing negotiation, so a lot of work ahead for all of us with this process, and so we're making steps, and it may not be giant steps, but we're making steps.” He later indicated that “we made some progress, yes, for sure. But there's a long way to go still.”

Soon afterward, Jordan Spieth offered up a similar perspective, with the hint that things aren’t as bad as they seem. “In general everyone on our side, I believe, are rowing the boat the right direction together,” he said. “I only feel positive momentum when we're actually having these internal conversations, and then every time anything comes from the outside world, it's the opposite, and it just kind of makes me chuckle a bit because it's a bit frustrating.” The implication being, apparently, that things are much better in the room than they seem from outside the room. But when the people outside the room aren’t feeling as optimistic as those in the room, well, whose fault is that?

Yes, negotiations are difficult and tricky, and it’s not fair to expect the PGA Tour players to offer their views — and tip their hands — in public while the PIF is beyond public scrutiny. But there’s still the matter of what actually has been accomplished in the 11-plus months since the news of the agreement stunned the golf world.

Since that date, we’ve seen only four tournaments with LIV and PGA Tour players together, we’ve seen one notable PGA Tour star — Jon Rahm — defect to LIV, and we’ve learned far more about committees, subcommittees, councils, associations and other bureaucratic paper-shuffling.

“It's got to be exhausting to be a casual golf fan at this point in time,” Max Homa said on Tuesday. “I don't know why you would want to hear about the business side of this game.”

Rahm, in fact, offered up — perhaps unintentionally — a sobering possibility for the future of the game of golf.

“They should take their time to make this work properly,” he said Tuesday. “I don't know if that takes one, two, three, five, six years. I don't know what that might be like. But I don't feel like I'm on any rush to make something happen today.”

Six years, huh? Six years. That’s what can happen when you don’t have a deadline.

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