Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson fired tee shots at the Saudi-funded golf league on Thursday, and it wasn’t long before the PGA Tour said its players who participated were no longer welcome, even if they had already quit.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has taken a hard line on his pledge that players can choose one tour or the other, but not both.
Those who quit the PGA Tour — Graeme McDowell said he did so 30 minutes before he left — are no longer eligible to participate in any PGA Tour. Those who remained members, such as Mickelson, were suspended.
“These players made their choice or for financial reasons,” Monahan said in a memo to his membership. “But they cannot claim the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities, and platform as you.”
Ian Poulter said he will appeal the ruling. McDowell said he wants to “maintain the moral high ground” by resigning to try to keep litigation to a minimum. He thinks suspension is a healthy way to get started.
Mickelson had nothing to say other than that he didn’t want to talk about the PGA Tour on his first tournament in four months, only to confirm that he would play all eight LIV events, five of which will be in the United States.
When he was told that people were interested in his position, Mickelson replied, “I’m very glad so many people are interested.”
It remains to be determined whether these players are welcome back. For now, Monahan clarified that the suspensions include the Presidents Cup – the international team (countries outside Europe) is determined by the rankings.
Monahan said the names of the players who quit will be removed from the PGA Tour standings – the FedEx Cup and Presidents Cup – after this week. He said the tour would ensure that those who did not resign would not affect the rankings in the various lists of tour players.
The USGA has already said that eligible players can still compete in next week’s US Open. The PGA Tour does not manage majors.
PGA Champion Justin Thomas and four-time champion Rory McIlroy welcomed the decision to stop the tour this week at the Canadian Open.
“I think anyone who was obviously shocked was not listening to the message that Jay and everyone else was passing on,” Thomas said. “They took that risk going for it, whether they thought it was a risk or not. I have great faith and great confidence in the PGA Tour and where we are going and we continue to grow, and these guys just aren’t going to be a part of it.”
Ten players have resigned from the PGA Tour, a roster that includes Johnson and Sergio Garcia. Mickelson, who has a lifetime membership of 45 PGA Tour titles, is among those who have not.
LIV Golf, managed by Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, responded to the tour’s decision by calling it vengeful and divisive.
“It is concerning that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity that prevents golfers from playing,” Lev Golf said. “This is certainly not the last word on the subject. The era of free agency has begun because we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London and beyond.”
In Discord, players compete without a conflicting event release from the PGA Tour.
Players typically receive three such editions per year for outdoor tournaments. Monahan denied releasing the LIV Golf Invitational because it is an eight-championship series that plans to compete directly with the PGA Tour in the United States.
The tour does not allow the release of events in North America.
“We have followed the tournament regulations from start to finish in response to those players who decided to turn their appearance on the PGA Tour by willfully violating the regulations,” he wrote.
LIV Golf paid a massive signing fee, with The Daily Telegraph reporting that Johnson and Mickelson had refused to dismiss reports that he had been paid $200 million. Both are more than Tiger Woods’ career earnings on the PGA Tour.
Norman said LIV will support players even if it ends up in the courts. McDowell said some players have already spoken to lawyers.
“We haven’t had versions. We feel we should have released versions. We’ve done that for the past 20 years, and we’ve worked all over the world,” McDowell said. “Listen, we all know the situation is about something bigger. It’s competition and you don’t like it. They have to play the game the way they feel they should play it, which is playing hard ball.”
The European Tour did not say whether it would suspend its players. It has an alliance with the PGA Tour commercially, including the first approved events this year on both sides of the Atlantic.
The first test of PGA Tour player numbers is the Connecticut State Traveller’s Championship, a week after the US Open. Johnson was among those included in this field.
The LIV Golf Invitational was broadcast on YouTube and Facebook. Ahead of the opening round, Norman said he was pleased to see the 30-year effort of making it pay off.
He attempted to start a world tour of golf in the ’90s for elite players only and had a television contract lined up until the PGA Tour ended the moment with the support of Arnold Palmer. That circle did not go off the ground.
He did this, backed by fortunes that golf had never seen before.
Each cycle offers $25 million in prize money, with $4 million to the individual winner. The richest event on the PGA Tour is The Players Championship with $20 million. This week’s Canadian Open, which features five of the world’s top 10 players, has an $8.7 million purse.
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