By Homero De la Fuente and CNN Sports staff
Following the start of the inaugural LIV Golf event near London on Thursday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that all golfers playing in the breakaway series have been notified that they are suspended and otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournaments.
“As you know, players listed below did not receive the necessary conflicting event and media rights releases — or did not apply for releases at all — and their participation in the Saudi Golf League/LIV Golf event is in violation of our Tournament Regulations,” Monahan said in a memo.
“The same fate holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our Regulations.”
Players who have resigned their memberships will be removed from the FedEx Cup points list when the RBC Canadian Open scores are posted on Sunday.
The 17 golfers listed, including past major winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, will not be permitted to play in PGA Tour tournaments as a non-member via a sponsor exemption or any other eligibility category, the memo reiterated.
Mickelson, who previously held a lifetime eligibility to the PGA Tour, said on Wednesday he didn’t plan on quitting the Tour as he had earned the right to participate as he has “a lifetime membership which he has earned, and worked hard for.”
As far as what happens now for the PGA Tour, Monahan added in the statement: “You probably have more questions. What’s next? Can these players come back? Can they eventually play PGA TOUR Champions? Trust that we’re prepared to deal with those questions, and we’ll approach them in the same way we have this entire process: by being transparent and respecting the PGA TOUR regulations that you helped establish.
“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.”
What is the LIV Golf series?
The LIV Golf series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) — a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the man who a US intelligence report named as responsible for approving the operation that led to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bin Salman has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.
The tour consists of eight events across the world, beginning in London on Thursday.
Fronted by former world No. 1 Greg Norman, the team-based series runs from June to October with the aim, it says, to “holistically improve the health of professional golf on a global scale to help unlock the sports’ (sic) untapped potential.”
Saudi Arabia’s PIF has pledged to award $250 million in total prize money. Each of the first seven events will have a total prize purse of $25 million, with $20 million split between individual players and the remaining $5 million shared between the top three teams at the end of each week.
Ahead of the first event in London, the 12 teams were announced, as well as their captain. On Tuesday, captains selected the rest of their teams in a draft format akin to the NFL and NBA drafts.
Unlike typical golfing events, London’s event is over three days not four, with the 48-man field beginning with a shotgun start — all at the same time — in the hopes of being a more engaging, action-packed style event.
Competing in a traditional stroke play format, the lowest score will be the winner.
What was LIV Golf’s response?
LIV Golf responded to the PGA Tour’s decision to suspend players on Thursday, saying: “Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. 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.”
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