PGA Tour Denies Releases For Saudi Arabian-Backed LIV Golf Event

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The PGA Tour denied releases for players looking to play in the first event of the upstart LIV Golf Invitational Series Tuesday, per a memo obtained by ESPN.

The Saudi Arabian-backed league is set to host its first tournament June 9-11 in London at the Centurion Club, the same weekend in which the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open takes place. Such a conflict meant that PGA Tour players looking to compete in the LIV tournament would have needed to be granted a release from the Tour.

“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations. As such, Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event under our regulations,” the memo reads. “As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, who has been fighting an uphill battle trying to get PGA Tour players to defect, said in response that they will not stop, despite the challenges the Tour has thrown in the league’s way.

“Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament,” Norman said in a statement. “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.”

Norman said last week that more than 200 players had registered for the first event, including nearly 15 of the top 100 players in the world rankings. That number would have been higher, had Phil Mickelson’s infamous comments about Saudi Arabia had never been released, Norman said.

At the time of the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational Feb. 17-20, Norman said that at least 30% of the top 50 players in the world had committed to playing in the LIV. According LIV Golf investments, the new league is set to host eight events in 2022, with a $255 million total purse.

“Quite honestly, we were ready to launch on the Tuesday or Wednesday of Genesis,” Norman said. “We had enough players in our strength of field, or minimal viable product, ready to come on board. And when all of that happened, everybody got the jitters, and the PGA Tour threatened people with lifetime bans and stuff like that.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has said many times since May 2021 that anyone who joined the LIV would be suspended and face a lifetime ban from the Tour. Norman said he’s tried to work with Monahan to come up with solutions, but Monahan has been unwilling to do so, calling LIV a breakaway league.

“For the PGA Tour to say we’re a breakaway league is completely wrong,” Norman said. “We’re not a breakaway tour, we’re an additive to the ecosystem of the game of golf. To cast this animus against me [is wrong]. It goes to other institutions as well. Just because I’m very blessed and fortunate enough to be the CEO of this opportunity to grow the game of golf, don’t target me for specific stuff and reasons. That’s crazy.”

The bad blood between the PGA Tour and Norman appears to have affected him even further, as Norman’s request to play in the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews July 14-17 was denied by the R&A.

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Written by Nick Geddes

Nick Geddes is a 2021 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. A life-long sports enthusiast, Nick shares a passion for sports writing and is proud to represent OutKick.

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