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PGA Tour suspends LIV golfers from all events

PGA Tour suspends LIV golfers from all events

The PGA Tour has suspended the 17 members who are competing in the inaugural LIV Golf International Series event, it announced Thursday.

Players who resigned their membership before starting the LIV Golf event being held outside London that began Thursday are also no longer eligible to compete in tour events or the Presidents Cup.

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote in a memo to the tour’s membership. “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. You have made a different choice, which is to abide by the Tournament Regulations you agreed to when you accomplished the dream of earning a PGA TOUR card and — more importantly — to compete as part of the preeminent organization in the world of professional golf.”

The memo said players who compete in LIV events are ineligible to participate on the PGA Tour or any other tours it sanctions, including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

Monahan wrote that any players who take part in future LIV Golf events will face the same punishment.

“I am certain our fans and partners — who are surely tired of all this talk of money, money and more money — will continue to be entertained and compelled by the world-class competition you display each and every week, where there are true consequences for every shot you take and your rightful place in history whenever you reach that elusive winner’s circle,” Monahan wrote.

“You are the PGA TOUR, and this moment is about what we stand for: the PGA TOUR membership as a whole. It’s about lifting up those who choose to not only benefit from the TOUR, but who also play an integral role in building it. I know you are with us, and vice versa. Our partners are with us, too. The fact that your former TOUR colleagues can’t say the same should be telling.”

LIV Golf, in a statement, called the PGA Tour’s punishment “vindictive” and said it “deepens the divide between the Tour and its members.”

“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,” LIV Golf said. “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.”

The PGA Tour announced the discipline less than 30 minutes after 17 of its members or former members who resigned from the tour in the past week hit their opening tee shots in the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club outside London.

Among them were six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time major champion Dustin Johnson and longtime Ryder Cup participants Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Two other past major winners, 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, have also reached agreements with LIV Golf to compete in future tournaments, sources told ESPN on Wednesday. LIV Golf officials have also had ongoing discussions with other players, including Rickie Fowler and Jason Kokrak.

Johnson and Garcia are among the players who have resigned from the tour, along with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Kevin Na. The players hoped to avoid punishment from the tour by quitting.

Monahan said the 10 players who have resigned their PGA Tour memberships will be removed from the FedEx Cup points standings after this week’s RBC Canadian Open. He wrote that “these players will not be permitted to play in PGA Tournaments as a non-member via a sponsor exemption” or any other eligibility category.

“This week, the RBC Canadian Open is a shining example of what you have created with the PGA Tour: a star-studded field, a committed sponsor, sold-out hospitality offerings, record crowds and a global broadcast distribution,” Monahan wrote. “These elements are part of the Tour’s DNA, built by the likes of Jack and Arnie, furthered by Tiger and countless others — whose legacies are inextricably linked, with each other and with the PGA Tour. This collective legacy can’t be bought or sold.”

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a former world No. 1 golfer and two-time winner of The Open, has told ESPN in the past that the new circuit was prepared to help its players fight the PGA Tour’s position in court. Norman said he had players who were willing to participate in a legal battle.

“I can only speak on information given to me by our legal team, and I have an extremely talented legal team in antitrust and anticompetitive laws, and we believe we’re in the right position,” Norman said. “We believe the players are independent contractors and have a right to go play wherever they want to go play.”

On May 10, the PGA Tour denied conflicting-event releases to players who had requested them. Monahan had told players several times that they would face punishment for competing in the LIV events without releases.

The first LIV Golf tournament in the United States is scheduled for June 30-July 2 at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon.

The LIV Golf series features 54-hole events, shotgun starts, no cuts and a team format. The seven regular-season events — a slate that also includes stops in Bedminster, New Jersey; Boston; and Chicago — are offering $25 million purses, the richest in golf history. The winner gets $4 million, and the last-place finisher gets $120,000. A season-ending team championship, Oct. 27-30 at Trump National Doral in Miami, has a $50 million purse.

According to reports, top players also received signing bonuses from LIV Golf worth more than $100 million.

A longtime PGA Tour player who wasn’t approached about playing in the LIV Golf series told ESPN that he agreed that the tour had to punish the players to prevent others from defecting.

“We’re going to end up in a worse position because these guys wanted a quick money grab to go play in an exhibition,” the player said. “The [Saudis] are going to lose interest eventually. I think we all have a little bit of a responsibility to leave the game better than when we got here, and repping for a shady government with a questionable record isn’t doing that.”

LIV Golf is supported by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Salman has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, speaking at a news conference at the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto on Wednesday, said he was concerned about golf’s future.

“I think it’s a shame that it’s going to fracture the game,” McIlroy said. “I think if anything, the professional game is the window shop into golf. If the general public are confused about who is playing where and what tournament’s on this week and, OK, he doesn’t get into these events, it just becomes so confusing. I think everything needs to try to become more cohesive, and I think it was on a pretty good trajectory until this happened.”

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D. Johnson in first LIV field; Phil not on initial list

D. Johnson in first LIV field; Phil not on initial list

COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than a dozen PGA Tour players, including two-time major champion Dustin Johnson, are included in the field for the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event, which will be played next month outside of London.

The list of 42 players was released by LIV Golf on Tuesday night. It also includes longtime PGA Tour players Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood.

Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson was not included on the list of players released on Tuesday. LIV Golf had previously said its events would include 48 players competing in 12 teams of four players. The final six spots will consist of players invited by CEO Greg Norman and qualifiers from an Asian Tour event, LIV Golf said in a release.

Mickelson, who skipped the Masters and PGA Championship, an event he won last year, was among the players who requested a release from the PGA Tour to compete in the first LIV Golf event, scheduled June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club outside London. Mickelson hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January.

Among the other PGA Tour players who will defy the PGA Tour by playing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series — which is being fronted by Norman, the two-time Open winner and former No. 1 player, and financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund — are Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford. Brooks Koepka‘s brother, Chase, also is among the LIV participants.

The field also includes former Clemson star Turk Pettit, the 2021 NCAA individual champion, and former Michigan State star James Piot, who won the 2021 U.S. Amateur.

Johnson, whose 24 PGA Tour victories include wins at the 2016 U.S. Open and 2020 Masters, was the biggest surprise in the LIV field. On Feb. 20, shortly after Mickelson’s controversial comments about the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” and the Saudi Arabian monarchy caused a firestorm, Johnson issued a statement, in which he said he was committed to the PGA Tour.

“I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour,” Johnson said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family.”

His agent, David Winkle, issued a statement on Tuesday.

“Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years,” Winkle wrote. “Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it. Dustin has never had an issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him, but in the end, felt this was too compelling to pass up.”

Norman said in a statement that “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,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier at the diversity of our field, featuring players from around the world including major champions and those making their debut with us competing in their first professional event.”

However, the initial LIV field isn’t as strong as Norman and his team had envisioned. Several top PGA Tour players, including Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and others, pledged their loyalty to the tour.

“I came away from the U.S. PGA and literally couldn’t care less about how much I made that week,” England’s Matt Fitzpatrick said Tuesday. “I was just gutted that I didn’t win. I had a chance and I didn’t take it, and that kind of said a lot to myself about myself that that’s all I’m bothered about out here.

“You want to have records, I want to win tournaments, and for me, that’s why for now, the sort of LIV Golf doesn’t interest me. In five years, if all of a sudden that becomes the main tour, then obviously you sort of rethink your options. But for now I’m out here wanting to make sure I’m giving myself the best chance of winning tournaments, winning majors and going about my career like that.”

On May 10, the PGA Tour denied conflicting-event releases for its players to compete in the London event, which coincides with the Canadian Open in Ontario that week. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has told players that they will face discipline, including potential suspensions and/or lifetime bans, by competing in the breakaway tour.

“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations,” the PGA Tour said in a memo to its players. “As such, Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event under our regulations. As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”

Norman called the PGA Tour’s decision not to grant releases to its players “anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive.” The DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, has also denied releases to its players.

Norman has argued that professional golfers are independent contractors and should be allowed to play wherever they want. He said his legal team was ready to challenge the PGA Tour’s position in court if needed.

“Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament,” Norman said in a statement. “But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally.”

The eight-event LIV series will feature five tournaments played in the United States. It will include seven regular-season events and a team championship match play finale at Trump Doral in Miami from Oct. 28 to 30. The second LIV event is scheduled for July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series will consist of 54-hole events, no cuts and shotgun starts “to ensure a faster and more exciting pace.” There will be a maximum of 48 players on 12 four-man teams at each event, and rosters will be determined by a draft the week of the tournament.

Total prize money for the eight events will be $255 million, according to LIV Golf Investments, and the seven regular-season tournaments will have total purses of $25 million, which would be the richest in professional golf, with $20 million in individual prizes and $5 million for the top three teams. The top three individuals after the seven regular-season events will also share a $30 million bonus.

The season-ending team match-play championship will provide another $50 million in prizes.