The PGA Tour has denied its members permission to play in the Saudi-funded golf tournament in London next month. The denials were sent to players who had sought permission late Tuesday afternoon.
It had been expected that the PGA Tour would grant waivers for the LIV Golf Invitational event near London because of a precedent allowing players limited releases for overseas events. (All members are required to seek a conflicting event release to compete in non-Tour events.)
However, it is thought the decision is based on a belief that the event in the U.K. is effectively part of a rival series. LIV Golf, which is funded by the Saudi Arabian regime, has announced a schedule of eight tournaments — the second of which is due to be played July 1-3 in Portland, Oregon — with plans for more to come.
A PGA Tour spokesperson declined to confirm any details regarding what was communicated to members on the releases.
Among those who have acknowledged applying for permission to play the tournament —which has a $25 million purse — are Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. Players who defy the Tour and play without a green light would be subject to disciplinary action. It is unclear if any player will choose to do that, or if anyone will try to litigate the Tour’s right to influence his schedule.
The first LIV Golf Invitational is scheduled for June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club outside of London, with a 48-man field competing for a $20 million purse over 54 holes. The winner gets $4 million — to date the richest prize in golf — and last place gets $120,000.
One player, who spoke with Golfweek under the condition of anonymity, said he has since been monitoring the reaction of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
“I’m for sure weighing up the pros and cons of making a jump like this,” the player said. “What Jay decides is a hugely important part of that. Asking permission to play an international ‘tour’ event is something I’ve done with the PGA Tour since I first took my card many years ago,” the player said. “I understand the initial construct of this LIV tour was destructive in nature if the PGA Tour didn’t want part of it. Here in the short term, the events are being scheduled to be as non-conflicting as possible which is difficult to do. As a player who plays multiple tours, conflicting events is something we always deal with and I don’t see how the LIV tour is any different until it’s 48 guys locked in for 14 events a season.”
Next Tuesday, May 17, is the deadline by which players must request waivers to compete in the second Saudi event, which will be held July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon. PGA Tour policy does not permit releases to be granted for events played against its own schedule in North America, so no applications for that tournament were expected to be granted.
Contributing: The Associated Press