The PGA Tour refused to release golfers who asked to play the first of a series of Saudi-funded tournaments in England next month, as Commissioner Jay Monahan tried to remove Greg Greg Norman’s latest bold move to launch a lucrative alliance of rivals.
The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational is scheduled for June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club outside London, with a field of 48 vying for 54 holes of $20 million in prize money. The winner takes home $4 million — the biggest prize in golf to date — and $120,000 for the last place.
The tour notified players seeking release late Tuesday afternoon and then all players of the decision in a brief memo obtained by The Associated Press.
“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been denied in accordance with PGA Tour rules. Therefore, Tour members are not entitled to participate in Saudi Golf League London events under our rules,” the memo said.
“As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interests of the PGA Tour and its players.”
While the names of the signings have not been officially announced, Phil Mickelson said through his agent that he has requested that the clash with the London event be released. Lee Westwood confirmed last week that he asked the PGA Tour and European Tour to be released.
The Telegraph reports that Sergio Garcia, Martin Kemer and Ian Poulter are also among those seeking release.
Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Investments, which is primarily funded by Saudi Arabia’s public investment funds. He told Sky Sports earlier on Tuesday that he would have six of the world’s top 50 players and 19 of the top 100 at the London event.
Now that Monaghan has his place, it’s up to the players to decide if they still want to go and risk losing their PGA Tour membership.
When asked what’s next for the tour, Monahan said: “I can tell you what we’re going to do – continue to host the best events with the best players, the greatest fans and partners in the world. “
The first LIV event, a week before the U.S. Open, was held in the same week as the RBC Canadian Open, the fourth oldest national open in golf. Norman won twice.
PGA Tour guidelines generally allow players to get three editions to play in tournaments around the world.
Monahan issued licenses to around 2 dozen players of the Saudi International from February 3-6 (the same week as Pebble Beach), with the caveat that players participating in the event will be required to play at the next Pebble Beach Race up to two times in three years.
But his decision on Tuesday portrayed the LIV Golf Invitational as the first of eight such events, with a $20 million purse and an additional $5 million for team components.
Norman delayed the league concept for a 12-man four-man team for several years after top players expressed disinterest.
He presented this year’s LIV Golf Invitational Series as a separate tournament where players can play as much as they want.
Five of those events are scheduled to be played in the United States, a direct challenge to the PGA Tour, whose rules do not allow any events to be posted for events held in North America. The first is scheduled for July 1-3 near Portland, Oregon. The others are suburbs of Chicago and Boston, and two courses owned by former President Donald Trump in New Jersey and Miami.
U.S. events, especially those in Portland, are seen as the PGA Tour’s first real test of where its players can play.
Instead, Monaghan fired the first shot that refused to be released into London. The next step is whether the player will challenge him by participating in the LIV Golf Invitational. Monahan has said this will result in the player being disqualified.
The move isn’t entirely surprising. Monahan said in late February that he told players that the PGA Tour was going ahead and that “anyone needs to make a decision.”
The tour denied the news on the same day Norman announced an additional $2 billion investment to expand the LIV Golf Series to 10 events next year and a full season of 14 events in 2024 and 2025. He said details of these additional games would be revealed later.
“We have a long-term vision and we’re here to stay,” said Norman, who tried to start the World Golf Tour in 1994.
The latest effort took a hit in February, when the top 10 players in the world all said they would stick with the PGA Tour. Rory McIlroy, a staunch opponent of the Saudi league, called it a “former Champions Tour”, noting that most interested parties are in the twilight years of their careers.
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