LIV Golf boss and Amanda Staveley in secret talks with the R&A at the Open

Yasir Al-Rumayyan - LIV Golf boss and Amanda Staveley in secret talks with the R&A at the Open

Yasir Al-Rumayyan is establishing himself among golf’s elite – PA/Joe Giddens

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the £500 billion Saudi sovereign wealth fund, and key associate Amanda Staveley met with R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers at Hoylake during Sunday’s final round of the 151st Open.

The pair were swept in unnoticed by one of the primary sponsors of the R&A, highlighting the game’s radically changed relationship with the LIV Golf movement. The R&A confirmed the meeting but would not give details of the discussion.

However, it is understood it was more symbolic than substantive, with Slumbers – like the other bosses of the majors – waiting to see what emerges from the merger negotiations between the respective parties.

In a groundbreaking moment and as the drama was unfolding, Slumbers attended a private box to have talks with Al-Rumayyan and Staveley. This marked the first time in the LIV saga that Al-Rumayyan had been welcomed into the inner sanctum of the majors.

Amanda Staveley - LIV Golf boss and Amanda Staveley in secret talks with the R&A at the Open

Amanda Staveley accompanied Al-Rumayyan to a private box at the Royal Liverpool golf course to meet R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers – AFP/JUSTIN TALLIS

Whether the R&A cosying up to LIV affects the qualification status for the rebels should become clearer in the next few months.

LIV Golf is lobbying for official world ranking recognition – Slumbers is on the board deciding its fate – and for the majors to grant exemptions for the money list. Depending on the result of the talks, the R&A will reveal its exemption categories in the new year.

Telegraph Sport revealed last Tuesday the PIF duo had been invited to the British major amid a shift in relations after last month’s shock announcement of the merger between the Saudis and the PGA and DP World Tours.

On the eve of the Championship, Slumbers addressed a softening of relations between golf’s establishment figures and the power brokers behind LIV Golf.

With concerns about the significant increases in purses that have “resulted in the long-term reassessment of the business model for professional golf” Slumbers said he would not rule out sponsorship opportunities that might come from the PIF.

“We have a number of large corporate partners that help us make this thing happen,” he added. “I think the world has changed in the last year. It’s not just golf. You’re seeing it in football. You’re seeing it in F1. You’re seeing it in cricket. I’m sure tennis won’t be that far behind.

“The world of sport has changed dramatically in the last 12 months, and it is not feasible for the R&A or golf to just ignore what is a societal change on a global basis. We will be considering within all the parameters that we look at all the options that we have.”

Al-Rumayyan, who is also the chairman of Newcastle United, is establishing himself among the sport’s elite despite the United States Department of Justice investigating the alliance. Staveley, a co-investor during the purchase of Newcastle, played a role in bringing the PGA Tour to the table after bitter infighting.

Last year, the mood was very different, with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman not invited to the Champions’ Dinner at St Andrews, where Slumbers criticised the LIV model as not being in the “best interest of the sport” and “entirely driven by money”.

Open winner Brian Harman received a record winner’s cheque for $3million (£2.3 million) on Sunday from a total prize fund of $16.5 million (£12.7 million) – an 18 per cent increase on last year.

That is still some way short of the $25 million prize funds for LIV events and the $20 million for designated tournaments on the PGA Tour, but the R&A has to balance having a competitive prize fund with its wider role.

Negotiations are underway between PIF and the tours as they try to reach a final agreement before the December 31 deadline. LIV’s future is still uncertain, although Al-Rumayyan has told the breakaway league’s top players that it will continue and a 2024 schedule is expected soon.

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