PGA Tour players react to LIV golf waiver denial: 'If you wanna go, go'

PGA Tour players react to LIV golf waiver denial: ‘If you wanna go, go’

After the PGA Tour refused to release players in the first event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, Justin Thomas said an individual decision must now be made.

“It’s like, if you want to go, go,” Thomas said Wednesday at AT&T Byron Nelson. “There were a lot of guys who defended her and talked about her all the time, and there were guys behind the scenes saying, I’m going, I’m doing this. And all I have is: just go then. Stop moving back and forth. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.”

In a surprising move, the PGA Tour told players in a note on Tuesday that it does not allow conflicting event versions for those who wanted to compete in the first LIV Golf Invitational, scheduled for June 9-11 outside London. That tournament contrasts with the RBC Canadian Open, which is the fourth oldest national championship in golf.

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Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, responded harshly to that memo, saying in a statement that the tour was operating an “illegal monopoly” and engaging in actions that were “anti-golfer, fanatic, and anti-competitive.”

Tour members can still compete in the first LIV event even without a issuance – but they will subject themselves to potential discipline from the tour, which could range from fines to suspensions to bans.

“I hope that will stop them from going there,” Thomas said.

Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia were among those who publicly revealed that they had requested the tour’s release, although it is unknown how they would respond to this latest challenge. Lee Westwood told Golf Channel Wednesday at TPC Craig Ranch that he’s already discussed the matter and doesn’t want to comment further.

In a series of interviews on Tuesday, Norman said that six of the top 50 players, 19 of the top 100 and 36 of the world’s top 150 players have signed up to play in the first event. It is unclear how the round’s decision will affect the final strength of the field; The DP World Tour said on Wednesday it was still reviewing releases on a case-by-case basis, and LIV officials were not planning to release a final field list for another two weeks.

LIV Golf has scheduled tournaments this year for eight events, including five in the US, and features massive purses and 48-player courses. The prize money for the London Championship is $25 million, of which $4 million is for the winner and $120,000 is for the last place. Norman said it will only be available via YouTube.

The second LIV event is July 1-3 in Oregon, and that should have been the sticking point – as per tour guidelines, players cannot be awarded versions for other events that have been played in North America. The tour simply raised the timeline for any potential lawsuit.

“Look, if you want to do it, no one will stop you,” said Will Zalatores. “But what we have here is also very good, given that we play every week for a very big bag on a very nice golf course, and given the benefits we have off the field on top of that, it’s very difficult to beat.”

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In the memo, the tour said the decision to refuse to release the players “was in the best interests of the PGA Tour and its players.”

Having previously served on the Tour Policy Board, Jordan Spieth was not surprised by the tour’s stance. “I don’t think anyone has been really surprised by him, and I think they would probably get the best legal advice possible to see what steps are going forward.”

“I thought it was the perfect response from the Tour,” said Zalatores, a current member of the Tour Players Advisory Board. “The Tour is in the best place it’s ever been, and it’s only going to get better, and why would we encourage our players to get versions of those events when we basically have all these sponsors coming into the Tour and they’re just doing it better and better?

“So we’re trying to promote the best product we can have, and if you want to be a part of this where it’s getting better and better, you don’t have to have both ways. You have a choice. You really did it. You can go if you want, but that’s what it is.”

No player in the world’s top 10 has expressed interest in the Norman startup league, although the Australian reiterated Wednesday that LIV Golf would go ahead even without any of the game’s top stars signing up to play.

“We think LIV has been here for a long period of time,” he said.

2022-05-11 17:56:24

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