PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 13: PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media during a practice round for The PLAYERS Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 13, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Golf

As Expected PGA Tour Pull Rug From Under LIV Golf Tournament Rebels

In a move widely predicted, including if you read our article on the LIV Golf Invitational earlier this week, the US PGA Tour has suspended all 17 members of its tour that are competing in the inaugural LIV Golf Tournament in London starting today.

The players that had already resigned the tour included the likes of Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charles Schwartzel.

However, others in the field that held a US PGA Tour card have now also been told that they are ineligible to participate on the US PGA Tour as well as other tours it sanctions, such as the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada or PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

The full list of players sanctioned is as follows:

  • Sergio Garcia*
  • Talor Gooch
  • Branden Grace*
  • Dustin Johnson*
  • Matt Jones
  • Martin Kaymer*
  • Graeme McDowell*
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Kevin Na*
  • Andy Ogletree
  • Louis Oosthuizen*
  • Turk Petit*
  • Ian Poulter
  • Charl Schwartzel*
  • Hudson Swafford
  • Peter Uihlein
  • Lee Westwood*

The players marked with an *asterisk are those that had resigned their PGA Tour card prior to today’s announcement.

Feisty Memo From PGA Commissioner

In a very feisty and strongly-worded memo to players that have remained on the US

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA – JUNE 17: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland talks to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Arthur Blank, Home Depot cofounder, owner of the PGA Tour Superstore, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC during a practice round prior to the RBC Heritage on June 17, 2020 at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

PGA Tour, the commissioner Jay Monahan commented:

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons, 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.”

“I am certain our fans and partners, who are surely tied 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.”

“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 your colleagues can’t say the same should be telling.”

Monaghan also confirmed that any PGA Tour professional who plays in any later LIV Golf Tournament will face the same sanctions handed out to the 17 players shown above.

“Vindictive” Response From LIV Golf Tour To Memo

The LIV Golf Tour have moved quickly following the breaking of the news claiming

AL MUROOJ, SAUDI ARABIA – FEBRUARY 02: Phil Mickelson of USA and Greg Norman, CEO of Liv Golf Investments interact during a practice round prior to the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on February 02, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Luke Walker/WME IMG/WME IMG via Getty Images)

that the punishment meted out to the 17 players was “vindictive” and that it “deepens the divide between the Tour and its members.”

LIV Golf also pointed out “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.”

The company then added a little more ominously,

“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.”

This does suggest that the LIV Tour rebels may consider some legal action in the future, perhaps supported by the LIV tour, maybe based on an unfair restriction on their right to work, especially those players who have earned long exemptions on the tour through winning Majors and other tournaments.

It remains to be seen whether the DP World Tour will follow suit with the US PGA Tour, or whether it will allow LIV Golf Tournament players to compete in its events.

Who Are The ‘Bad Guys’ Here?

It is clear that the US PGA Tour are trying to paint the LIV Golf organisers as the bad

AL MUROOJ, SAUDI ARABIA – FEBRUARY 05: Phil Mickelson of USA looks on after playing from a bunker on the 10th hole during day three of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on February 05, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Luke Walker/WME IMG/WME IMG via Getty Images)

guys here.

Certainly, the LIV Golf links with Saudi Arabia, a country with an appalling human rights record, is something that these rebel golfers have decided to overlook.

While those claims from the US PGA Tour do have some validity, some of its other accusations are somewhat blinkered.

For many years, the US PGA Tour has cherry-picked the top professionals from other tours because its tour offers far more money than even the next largest tour (the DP World Tour).

This is why golfers like Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Charles Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and even former golfers such as Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh and Gary Player all ended up playing predominantly on the US PGA Tour, rather than their own home tours.

It is then a bit rich to complain that a company is throwing money around to attract talent away from your organization, when you have been doing precisely that for the best part of 50 years.

Champion of Players?

Similarly, the US PGA lauding its stance as a champion of players is also a little disingenuous.

Many players have been irked by the organizations reluctance to let players have their own media, likeness and image rights returned to them, rather than owned by the tour.

Given that these rights can earn individuals many millions in any given year, you can see why the US PGA tour does not want to give this key source of funding away to the players.

Their piecemeal offering of a pro-rata Image Rights payment went little way towards addressing the issue.

The Media Rights issue is a huge sticking point for some, Mickelson claimed that the tour sat on $20 billion worth of media assets and that they now own the footage of the shots he made as a golfer.

Furthermore, in his five appearances in The Match, he claimed the US PGA made him pay $1 million for his own media rights for that tournament, each time that he featured in the Match.

So the claim that people getting fed up of “money, money and more money’ may well be true, but it conveniently overlooks the issues many players have with how the wealthy US PGA run things in their own organization.

The Next Move?

It’s fair to say that this move by the US PGA was entirely expected and was why so many golfers resigned their tour card in the run up to the LIV Golf Invitational starting today.

Any hopes that those that had not resigned their card would be offered a last minute olive-branch, like Talor Gooch, Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson himself, have now evaporated.

What happens next will be hugely interesting. Could the DP World Tour follow the US PGA example, or would they allow LIV golfers to play their tour instead? Effectively offering those players a route to play competitive golf on other weeks of the year?

A battle in the law courts does look likely and will also be lengthy and expensive, but both the US PGA and LIV Golf have deep enough pockets to put up a long fight in court.

But the game of golf itself may not be a winner if that is what eventually does happen.

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