The urgency of PGA Tour golfers to sit around a table with Yasir al‑Rumayyan is no coincidence. Golf industry leaders, many of whom have been present at this week’s Players Championship, privately believe it could already be 2026 until any ­unification of the sport delivers a schedule that combines LIV and the traditional tours.

Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is keen to explain his vision for golf’s future to player directors of the PGA Tour. Those include Tiger Woods, widely understood to be a Saudi sceptic. Until now – and quite incredibly, given the kingdom’s relentless march into the sport via the rebel LIV circuit – there has been no such discussion.

The Strategic Sports Group, which has invested $1.5bn into a new commercial entity, has been present at Sawgrass for detailed talks with the PGA and DP World Tours over recent days.

The ultimate aim involves the globalisation of golf, with further investment from the PIF. However, there is private acceptance that with the 2024 schedule ongoing and plans naturally under way for 2025, huge leaps must be made even to alter the professional landscape in two years’ time. The 50th staging of the Players Championship is taking place without two reigning major champions because of their LIV connections.

Peter Malnati, a player director of the PGA Tour, articulated his belief that rapid action is needed. “I think something needs to happen for our sport,” Malnati said.

“I would love to see a unified game. I want there to be different tours where guys can play, I want that, but I want to see a unified game where, when we have events like the Players Championship, that we have all the best players in the world and we’re proud to call them PGA Tour members. That’s what I want. I don’t know how we get there, but that’s what I want.

Rory McIlroy recovered well after a double bogey with three birdies in his final three holes. Photograph: Marta Lavandier/AP

“Our commissioner has been saying for months that the next step is to have Yasir meet with players of the PGA Tour. He has been saying that for months. There’s been, obviously, all sorts of challenges to making that happen but that’s essential.

“That’s absolutely essential because at its core players have no business running the PGA Tour, but this is a members’ organisation. We should have input in the direction it goes.”

Inside the ropes, Wyndham Clark started day three with a four-stroke lead and finished it one shy of Xander Schauffele. A 65 from Schauffele took him to 17 under par. Clark’s 70 included the possibly decisive finding of water at the iconic 17th.

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Brian Harman rampaged through the pack, with the Open champion’s 64 moving him to 15 under. “This is my favourite PGA Tour event of the year,” Harman said. “I love coming here. They treat us like kings when we show up. The golf course is incredible. I’ve been close here a couple of times. I’m really excited for tomorrow.” Matt Fitzpatrick and Maverick McNealy are minus 13.

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Rory McIlroy’s race looked to be run as he double bogeyed the 14th to move back to level par for the day. The Northern Irishman responded impressively, producing birdies at the last three holes for a 69 and nine under total. McIlroy will retain hopes of a second Players crown but overall unease about the state of his game was emphasised by the 34-year-old heading straight to the driving range after round three.

Ludvig Åberg’s 67 means he has tied McIlroy’s 54-hole score. The 24-year-old Swede’s emergence at elite level continues apace. Åberg bogeyed the 1st and 18th but delivered seven birdies in between.

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