Shortly after the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series teed off, the PGA Tour announced that all 17 members participating in the event have been suspended.
In a memo to PGA Tour members, commissioner Jay Monahan said players competing in LIV Golf, a Saudi-backed rival league, did not receive conflicting event and media rights release and are being notified that they no longer will be eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play and other sanctioned tours.
Suspended players listed on the letter, 10 of whom had previously resigned their PGA Tour membership, include LIV Golf headliners Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, as well as Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Matt Jones, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Andy Ogletree, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford, Peter Uihlein and Lee Westwood.
Players who participate in future LIV Golf events will face the same sanctions.
“We have followed the Tournament Regulations from start to finish in responding to those players who have decided to turn their backs on the PGA Tour by willfully violating a regulation,” Monahan wrote.
The rival league began play on Thursday with the LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club outside of London, conflicting directly with the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open being held in Toronto.
LIV Golf issued a statement in response to the disciplinary action taken by the PGA Tour.
“Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members,” LIV Golf said. “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. 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.”
Funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, with the Saudi Arabian government initially pledging $400 million to start the league, LIV Golf recruited PGA Tour members with lucrative contracts. According to reports, Mickelson’s deal was worth approximately $200 million, and Johnson’s contract was around $125 million. With Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed reportedly set to join, the league currently includes at least nine former major winners.
All of whom will be banned indefinitely from the PGA Tour events and sanctioned tours, including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica. That does not include the sport’s four majors – the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open or Open Championship – which are run by respective governing bodies. The Open Championship, which is the fourth and final major of 2022, will be held in July.
Players who resigned their PGA Tour memberships will be removed from FedExCup Points List and be ineligible for the Presidents Cup, Monahan wrote. Those players will not be eligible to play under a sponsor exemption or any other eligibility category.
“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” Monahan wrote. “But they can’t expect the same PGA TOUR membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platforms 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 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.”
LIV Golf’s next event is scheduled to begin on June 30 in Oregon at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, the same day as the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic.
“You are the PGA Tour, and this moment is about what we stand for: The PGA Tour membership as a whole,” Monahan wrote. “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.”