PGA suspends players in LIV Golf event


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The PGA Tour on Thursday suspended or made ineligible its players who defected to the breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series, drawing a line in the sand on the morning the new Saud-backed series began its first tournament outside London.

The new series, backed by extraordinary wealth if not yet an impressive stable of golfers, has sent shockwaves through the sport, threatening to upend its traditional order.

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan wrote in a memo sent to players that was obtained by The Washington Post. “But they can’t demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners.”

The breakaway series fired back with a statement of its own, calling the PGA Tour’s announcement “vindictive” and divisive and warning that “this certainly is not the last word on this topic.”

Backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fun and shepherded into existence by former pro golfer Greg Norman, LIV Golf attracted a number of PGA Tour stalwarts by offering massive signing bonuses and purses, guaranteed prize money, shorter, no-cut events and a lighter schedule, with only eight tournaments in its first year. For its first tournament this week outside London, however, it has only four of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking — Dustin Johnson (No. 15), Louis Oosthuizen (No. 21), Kevin Na (No. 34) and Talor Gooch (No. 35) — and 14 others who rank in the top 50, including Phil Mickelson, a six-time major winner and one of golf’s most familiar faces.

Others, like recent major winners Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, reportedly will join the new league for its second event later this month outside Portland, Ore.

Everything you need to know about the LIV Golf Invitational Series

A number of the players who defected to LIV Golf resigned their PGA Tour memberships: Johnson, Na, Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Turk Pettit, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood. Those players will not be allowed to play in PGA Tour events and in international events such as the Presidents Cup and will have their names removed from the FedEx Cup points standings, which determine the tour’s season champion. Other LIV Golf players — Mickelson, Gooch, Matt Jones, Andy Ogletree, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihlein — did not forfeit their PGA Tour memberships, and their future status remains unclear.

“You probably have more questions,” Monahan’s memo to players stated. “What’s next? Can these players come back? Can they eventually play PGA Tour Champions [the tour’s senior circuit]? Trust that we’ve prepared to deal with those questions, and we’ll approach them in the same way we have this entire process: by being transparent and respecting the PGA Tour regulations that you helped establish.”

During the buildup to the new league — whose LIV name refers to the Roman numeral of its 54-hole events and rhymes with “give” — the PGA Tour repeatedly threatened to permanently ban any golfer who plays in it. The tour did not give its members permission to play in the first LIV Golf event, which is required for golfers who wish to play in events sponsored by other tours. (Generally, PGA Tour golfers are allowed to play up to three non-PGA Tour events per season).

The memo said the defecting players “did not receive the necessary conflicting event and media rights releases — or did not apply for releases at all — and their participation in the Saudi Golf League/LIV Golf event is in violation of our tournament regulations.”

The memo went on to say that the “same fate holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our regulations,” a warning to players like DeChambeau and Reed who reportedly are thinking of jumping ship.

Meanwhile, the first LIV golf event kicked off utilizing a shotgun start, which means all the golfers start on each of the holes simultaneously. Without a traditional television deal, the event is being streamed on YouTube, Facebook and the LIV website.

“I feel so happy for the players, I feel so happy that we’ve brought free agency to golf,” Norman said as the first LIV broadcast kicked off Thursday morning.

Said Johnson: “I’m just excited to get it started. It’s a new chapter for golf. The fans are going to love it, all the players who are here are going to love it.”


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