A slew of members on the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour in recent weeks have announced they will bail from the top league in the world to join the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.
But it’s been unclear what the PGA would do in light of the exodus. Until now.
“We have followed the Tournament Regulations from start to finish in responding to those players who have decided to turn their backs on the PGA Tour by willfully violating a regulation,” a PGA release read. “The players are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup. This also applies to all tours sanctioned by the PGA Tour: the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.”
“The players listed below did not receive the necessary conflicting events and media rights releases — or did not apply for releases at all — and their participation in the Saudi Golf League/LIV Golf event is a violation of our Tournament Regulations.”
The players being banned are Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Andy Ogletree, Branden Grace, Matt Jones, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford, Peter Uihlien, Lee Westwood and Turk Petit.
The new LIV league responded. “Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members,” LIV Golf said in a statement. “It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond.”
Johnson, the No. 13 world-ranked player who has won two majors, is the highest-ranked player to join the LIV series, which includes at least 26 of the top 150 players in the world. Since his announcement last week, two more top PGA players, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, have announced they would join the upstart league, set to play eight tournaments in team play.
The PGA will be holding its own tournament at the same time as the LIV event at the Centurion Club in London next weekend, and therein lies the problem. The PGA Tour “has threatened players with potential suspensions or even banishment as punishments for playing in the LIV events. Johnson’s decision will put those threats to the test, given his lofty status in the sport,” the New York Post reported last week.
Former PGA No. 1 Greg Norman, CEO of the LIV Series, said, “Free agency has finally come to golf.”
“This is an opportunity to start a movement that will change the course of history by bringing new and open competition to the sport we all love. The desire shown by the players to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their emphatic belief in our model and confidence in what we’re building for the future,” Norman said.
The new league tried hard to enlist Tiger Woods, offering him a sum in the high nine-figures. “Woods acknowledged before that he was approached by the LIV Tour before but rejected it,” the Post said.
The Saudi-backed league has also wooed other top names in golf, locking down Johnson and Phil Mickelson. “LIV Golf reportedly offered Jack Nicklaus more than $100 million to run the operation (Nicklaus passed), reportedly offered Dustin Johnson $125 million to play (DJ didn’t pass) and, according to one Golf Channel report, paid Mickelson an astounding $200 million to sign up,” the New York Post reported.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.