We’ve all heard about the proposed Saudi golf league(s) threatening to compete with the PGA Tour. The Premier Golf League and the Greg Norman-helmed LIV Golf Enterprises have been rumored to be eyeing top talent worldwide, including some (many?) from the PGA Tour. With the latter now scheduled to get underway, how many of those players will want to participate? Will the PGA Tour let this happen? Don’t hold your breath.

LIV Golf Invitational Series

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The newly minted LIV Golf Invitational Series recently announced its full schedule of events to take place at various courses around the world, kicking off June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club in England. All tournaments will consist of 48 players split into 12 teams. They will play 54 holes with no cuts, shotgun starts, and huge money on the line both as individual players and teams. Norman said that invitations were sent to some 250 of the top players from around the world. Of those, 170 entries were sent in, including an as-of-yet-unnamed 19 of the top 100 golfers in the world. Seems like the dream is becoming reality, right?

Not So Fast, My Saudi Golf Friends

Never fear, everyone, Jay Monahan is here to assert PGA Tour hegemony. No sooner than Sergio Garcia said he couldn’t wait to leave “this tour”, the PGA denied all requested waivers by Tour players to participate in the London tournament due to its policy on conflicting events. Although the PGA has granted such waivers before – such as the Saudi Invitational in February – it’s unclear why exactly these were denied. It could be the announced infusion of more Saudi money for LIV Golf 2023 and 2024. It could be that the RBC Canadian Open is set to happen that same weekend (this was specifically mentioned in the PGA Tour’s decision).

Who Wanted a Waiver?

While it’s unknown who exactly wanted to give it a go, it’s widely assumed that Phil Mickelson is involved (obviously). Further, Lee Westwood’s recent comments confirmed that he, too, requested a release to participate. It is certainly understandable when he says that he’s an independent contractor working for himself, doing what is best for him. It’s concerning, though, when further commentary comes across about as tone-deaf as Phil’s original take.

“We’ve played European Tour events in Saudi Arabia; I’ve had releases from the PGA Tour saying that I go play in Saudi Arabia. It’s been no problem to them in previous years,” Westwood said. “Golf is not the first sport to have links with Saudi Arabia, but it seems to be coming under more scrutiny than anywhere else. So whether you think that’s right or not is the individual’s opinion. …

“I think Saudi Arabia, obviously, they know they’ve got issues – lots of countries around the world have got issues – and I think they’re trying to improve. They’re trying to do it through sport, which a lot of other countries do. I think they’re doing it a lot quicker than some countries are trying to do it, and that maybe worries people or scares people because people don’t like change, do they? They like continuity and things to stay the same.”

Lee Westwood on playing in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League

LIV Commissioner Greg Norman’s Response

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Let’s just say the Aussie commissioner was not happy. When you throw around phrases like “anti-golfer”, “anti-fan”, and “illegal monopoly”, you’re not likely to curry favor. See for yourself.

“Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament. This is particularly disappointing in light of the Tour’s non-profit status, where its mission is purportedly ‘to promote the common interests of professional tournament golfers.’ Instead, the Tour is intent on perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market.  The Tour’s action is anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive. But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally.”

LIV Golf Commissioner Greg Norman

Where Do We Go From Here?

The long and the short answer is that we wait. We’ve seen the Saudi golf league’s schedule. We know the PGA Tour’s schedule. We know that some players will not be allowed to participate at Centurion Golf Club. The next step is to see exactly who will. We should hear the full 48-man field in the next few weeks to gain clarity on the participants, and thus the quality of play expected. What remains to be seen is whether the PGA Tour maintains its stance and continues to deny waiver requests. Incidentally, players are allowed up to three waivers/exemptions per year, according to the PGA Tour handbook, provided the events are not in North America. All you can really say is… buckle up. This could get interesting. No, scratch that. This WILL get interesting really quickly.

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About Author

Christopher Brown

I'm a proud husband, father of four, and resident of Houston, Texas who has always lived and breathed sports, both as a participant and as a fan. I've done it all: baseball, basketball, soccer, football, and wrestling competitively (aka badly), and golf for fun. I love all professional Houston sports teams (especially the Astros) and I'm a die-hard fan and alum of the Texas Longhorns.

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