Stating that the PGA Tour was not going to allow participants of the LIV Golf Invitational Series to “free-ride” outside the structure and cachet of its organization, commissioner Jay Monahan defended the decision to suspend players who made defected from his tour to play in the Saudi-backed venture’s inaugural event.
LIV Golf Players Can’t ‘Free-Ride’ Off PGA Tour, Says Jay Monahan
“It was an unfortunate week that was created by unfortunate decisions, those decisions being players choosing to violate our tournament rules,” Monahan told CBS’ Jim Nantz. “…It’s my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, partners and fans, and that’s exactly what I did. I don’t think it came as a surprise. for whoever, given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation.
Asked by Nantz why players couldn’t compete on both circuits — a position questioned by LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman — Monahan began his response with a question of his own: “Why do they need us so badly? ?”
“Because these players chose to sign lucrative multi-year contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players over and over again,” Monahan continued. “You look at that, compared to what we see here today, and that’s why they need us so much.
“You have real, pure competition — the best players in the world here at the RBC Canadian Open, with millions of fans watching. And in this game, it is true and pure competition that creates the profile and presence of the world’s greatest players. That’s why they need us. This is what we do. But we are not going to allow players to take advantage of our loyal members, the best players in the world.
When the two events kicked off on Thursday, Monahan posted a letter explaining that the suspensions, which LIV Golf has decried as “vindictivewere a matter of following PGA Tour rules. The tour had refused releases last month for players who requested a waiver to play the LIV Golf event in England. A number of defected players, including American star Dustin Johnson, have resigned from their PGA Tour memberships rather than face further sanctions.
As to whether players such as Johnson and fellow LIV Golfer Phil Mickelson might ever be allowed to return to the PGA Tour, the commissioner argued Sunday. His tour could face legal challenges to his suspensions.
“We’ll see how things continue to develop,” he told Nantz, “as we go down the road.”
The PGA Tour had allowed a number of its members to play at the Saudi International in February. When asked to explain why that was acceptable but participating with LIV Golf was not, Monahan pointed to the fact that February’s competition was “a unique sanctioned tour-recognized event,” in that case the Asian Tour.
“This series is a group of events, mostly based in North America,” Monahan said of the LIV Golf venture, which is underwritten by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and guarantees massive payouts to participating players.
“Why is this group spending so much money, billions of dollars, recruiting players and pursuing a concept, with no possibility of return?” Monahan said during the interview. “At the same time, there have been a lot of questions, a lot of comments about the ‘growth of the game’. And I ask: How is this good for the game that we love?
Monahan also posed a rhetorical question to players who have left for LIV Golf or are considering it: “Have you ever had to apologize for being a PGA Tour member?”
Critics of the Saudi-backed company have said it was a ‘sportswashing’ effort by a repressive regime keen to use golf to drum up goodwill and deflect the subject of allegations of human rights violations. Norman caused a stir last month when he downplayed the 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, telling a London audience: “Listen, we’ve all made mistakes. At a press conference ahead of the LIV Golf event, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland said Khashoggi’s murder was “reprehensible” but noted that professional golfers are “not politicians”.
As Monahan spoke on CBS, Rory McIlroy sat atop a star-studded ranking at the Canadian Open en route to a crowd-pleasing victory in Toronto.
McIlroy, also from Northern Ireland, has become one of the harshest critics among PGA Tour players of the Saudi firm and its participants. In February, McIlroy blasted Mickelson and, with the Tour’s top players then appearing to have closed ranks behind that Tour, said LIV Golf was “dead in the water.”
Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner, prevailed at LIV Golf’s first event on Saturday and won $4.75 million in addition to an undisclosed amount for joining the tour.
“Where the money comes from is not something I’ve ever looked at, playing in my 20-year career,” said the 37-year-old South African. “I think if I start digging everywhere we’ve played you might find something to complain about.”
The next stop in the series is its first U.S. leg, a tournament outside of Portland, Oregon, which begins in late June. A total of five of the eight LIV Golf events scheduled for this year will take place in the United States, including a pair that will be held on courses owned by Donald Trump.
The LIV Golf course should be completed by former great champions Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. The tournament will take place concurrently with the John Deere Classic of the PGA Tour in Silvis, Illinois. More established names could also be On the way at LIV Golf, which would give him more credibility and could lead to a crucial change if his events become eligible for points on the Official World Golf Ranking.
LIV Golf players are sacrificing the chance to climb or stay stable in the world rankings, which could affect their ability to qualify for the majors.
Monahan – who is a member of the eight-person OWGR board – said of the predicament on Sunday: “These ranking points are a critical part of why the best players in the world are here, in this pure and true competition against the depth of field that we have.