What we know and still don't know about LIV Golf, the circuit challenging the PGA Tour – ESPN
Phil Mickelson believes he should not have to give up his PGA Tour membership for playing in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series. (1:31)
Two more major champions, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, are reportedly defecting from the PGA Tour to the new LIV Golf Invitational Series.
They might not be the last high-profile golfers to join the breakaway circuit being fronted by two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman and financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Rickie Fowler and others have also been linked to the new venture.
At least 16 PGA Tour players have defied the tour and joined forces with the Saudis, including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson and two-time winner Dustin Johnson, who are competing in LIV Golf’s inaugural event, which begins Thursday at Centurion Club outside London.
Access 4,300+ hours of live golf coverage, replays, originals and more. Click here for the upcoming schedule.
At the RBC Canadian Open in Ontario on Wednesday, PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas called the defections a “bummer.” “I don’t know if annoyed or tired is the right word,” Thomas said. “It’s just one of those things. I’ve thought a lot about it and it’s like, people are entitled to choose as they wish. I don’t dislike DJ now. I don’t think he’s a bad dude. I’m not going to treat him any differently. It’s like he’s entitled to choose as he wishes.
“And I think that the day and age that we live in now, it’s just so negative that you see it in everything. Sport, politics, whatever it is, it’s like if you disagree with someone you just feel that you’re entitled to hate them and talk bad about them and just bash their decision, when everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, you know what I mean?”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has warned players that they would face stiff penalties for competing in the rival circuit, and the tour issued another statement saying as much again last week.
While stars like Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay have said they’ll remain loyal to the PGA Tour, they admit they’re interested to see what goes down over the next several weeks.
“I’m as curious as you are to see how the tournaments will go and what the presentation will be like, if it will be similar to golf tournaments that we’re used to seeing on TV, or if it will be something totally different, and only time will tell,” Cantlay said last week. “I’m interested to see what that product will be compared to what the product is right now that we are all used to.”
Where do the PGA Tour and LIV Golf go from here? Here are a few questions that must still be answered:
Here are the 48 players who have officially signed up so far, with DeChambeau and Reed also reportedly on the way for the next one:
Hennie Du Plessis
When: June 9-11
Where: Portland, Oregon
When: June 30-July 2
Where: Bedminster, New Jersey
When: July 29-31
When: Oct. 7-9
Where: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
When: Oct. 14-16
When: Oct. 27-30
The PGA Tour responded Thursday by suspending the 17 current or former members who defied Monahan by competing in London without releases. In a memo sent to players, Monahan didn’t specify how long the suspensions would last or if players could be reinstated. The players are ineligible for tour events and the Presidents Cup, which is scheduled Sept. 19-25 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” Monahan wrote in the memo. “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. The 10 players who resigned their memberships, which includes Johnson, Lee Westwood and Oosthuizen, also can’t compete in tour events on sponsor’s exemptions.
Monahan wrote that any PGA Tour players who compete in future LIV events would 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.”
The governing bodies that stage the four majors — Augusta National Golf Club (Masters), USGA (U.S. Open), PGA of America (PGA Championship) and the R&A (The Open) — have supported the PGA Tour and DP Tour (formerly the European Tour) in the past, but they don’t seem ready to ban players who are competing in the LIV Golf circuit, at least not yet.
The U.S. Open is up next, at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, on June 16-19, five days after the completion of the London event. A dozen players in the LIV field, including Mickelson, Johnson, Garcia, Gooch, Grace, Na and Oosthuizen, are already exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open.
On Tuesday, the USGA said it wouldn’t prevent players in the LIV events from competing in the U.S. Open.
“Regarding players who may choose to play in London this week, we simply asked ourselves this question — should a player who had earned his way into the 2022 U.S. Open, via our published field criteria, be pulled out of the field as a result of his decision to play in another event? And we ultimately decided that they should not,” the USGA said.
The USGA said its decision should not be interpreted as favoring a new tour or a player’s decision.
“Rather, it is simply a response to whether or not the USGA views playing in an alternative event, without the consent of their home tour, an offense that should disqualify them for the U.S. Open,” the statement said.
At the Masters in April, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said the club supported the current ecosystem of golf. That being said, Masters champions are so revered by the club, it’s difficult to imagine them being prohibited from competing in golf’s first major of the year. Mickelson, Garcia, Johnson and Schwartzel have each won a green jacket.
“I would start by saying that our mission is always to act in the best interests of the game in whatever form that may take,” Ridley said. “I think that golf’s in a good place right now. There’s more participation. Purses on the professional tours are the highest they have ever been.
“We have been pretty clear in our belief that the world tours have done a great job in promoting the game over the years. Beyond that, there’s so much that we don’t know about what might happen or could happen that I just don’t think I could say much more beyond that.”
Justin Thomas discusses multiple players leaving the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf.
A lot of it has to do with money, but some players, particularly aging ones such as Garcia, McDowell, Poulter and Schwartzel, might be enticed by making as much (or more) money in fewer events on the LIV circuit.
Jones, from Australia, is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. He has a runner-up finish and solo third this season. He finished tied for 26th at the Masters last year. He’s a pretty good player, but not in the upper echelon of the PGA Tour. He has earned more than $17.3 million during his tour career.
Jones said playing in just seven regular-season events and a team championship finale would allow him to spend more time with his three young daughters. He still hopes to at least be eligible for the majors, if not PGA Tour events. He acknowledged receiving a signing bonus from LIV Golf.
“I want to be around as a dad,” Jones said. “I mean, I’ve been out here for 15 years. I’ve missed a lot of what goes on in my kids’ life. I was raised with a mom and dad that were always there for me. They were there at every sporting event, every schooling event, and that’s something I’d like to try and do for my kids.”
Swafford is another PGA Tour member who plans to play in London. He picked up his third career tour victory at the American Express in January and has earned more than $9.65 million. Swafford has two children.
“I’ve got two kids now,” Swafford said. “Not traveling as much is appealing. There’s a lot of things that went into the decision. I still want to play the PGA Tour. I definitely do. I love the tour.”