PGA Tour bring hammer down on players defecting to Saudi-backed series

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A bombshell letter from the PGA Tour announced that all defecting members to rebel Saudi Invitational series have been suspended, in a huge shake-up for golf's biggest names


The PGA Tour have brought the hammer down on defectors to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series by suspending all current and future players involved with the rebel series. 

The game’s biggest names have moved quickly to join the money-spinning rebel series, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Rickie Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau. Patrick Reed is joining shortly, too. 

Blasting the defectors for ‘willfully violating regulation’, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan outlined suspensions in a wide-ranging letter issued to members.  

The rebel tour’s debut competition got underway at the Centurion Club in St Albans on Thursday and within an hour of the first tee shots being taken, the bombshell letter was released by Monahan. 

‘PGA Tour members, I wish to provide you with an update and share information regarding the current and former PGA Tour players who are participating in the Saudi Golf League’s event in London today,’ Monahan’s letter began.

‘Thank you for your trust, patience and loyalty. 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 regulation.

‘Simultaneous to you receiving this memo, players (listed below) are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup.’ 

Garcia, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Johnson, Matt Jones, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Mickleson, Kevin Na, Andy Ogletree, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford, Peter Uihlein and Lee Westwood were all named at the end of the letter. 

It revealed that Gooch, Jones, Mickelson, Ogletree, Poulter, Swafford and Uihlein all refused to resign, instead being kicked out. 

A statement in response by LIV Invitational organisers took a swipe at the PGA Tour, labelling Monahan and his staff ‘vindictive’ for handing out suspensions. 

‘Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members,’ the LIV statement read. 

‘It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entry blocking golfers from playing.’

A bombshell letter from the PGA Tour announced that all defecting members to rebel Saudi Invitational series have been suspended, in a huge shake-up for golf's biggest names

A bombshell letter from the PGA Tour announced that all defecting members to rebel Saudi Invitational series have been suspended, in a huge shake-up for golf’s biggest names 

Dustin Johnson had already resigned on Tuesday but more have had memberships revoked

Dustin Johnson had already resigned on Tuesday but more have had memberships revoked

Dustin Johnson had already resigned on Tuesday but more have had memberships revoked

Mickelson was coy this week on his PGA Tour membership

Mickelson was coy this week on his PGA Tour membership

DeChambeau is among the latest additions to the Saudi-backed series

DeChambeau is among the latest additions to the Saudi-backed series

Phil Mickleson (left) and Bryson DeChambeau (right) will now play no part in PGA competitions

FULL STATEMENT FROM ORGANISERS OF REBEL SAUDI SERIES 

Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. 

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It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entry blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic. 

The era of free agency beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond.

‘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,’ the letter continued. 

‘The same fate holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our regulations.’

A memo to players last month warned that the Tour would not be releasing players to feature in the opening rebel series event and that has rung true.

‘As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players,’ that memo to players read. 

Thursday’s bombshell letter enhances the pressure on the sport’s other governing bodies – Augusta National runs the Masters, the PGA of America runs the PGA Championship, and the R&A oversees the British Open – to see how serious their sanctions – if any – will be on players jumping ship. 

Former world No 1 Johnson jumped before others have now been pushed as he confirmed he had resigned from the PGA Tour on Tuesday. 

Johnson said: ‘Obviously at this time it’s hard to speak on what the consequences will be, but for right now, I’ve resigned my membership from the PGA Tour. 

‘I’m going to play here for now, and that’s the plan. Majors, again I can’t answer for them, but hopefully they are going to allow us to play. 

‘Obviously I’m exempt for the majors so I plan on playing there unless I hear otherwise.’ 

Sergio Garcia (left) chose to resign, but Ian Poulter (right) has simply had membership revoked

Sergio Garcia (left) chose to resign, but Ian Poulter (right) has simply had membership revoked

Sergio Garcia (left) chose to resign, but Ian Poulter (right) has simply had membership revoked

Mickelson and DeChambeau both insisted they had not offered their resignations to the PGA Tour, prior to day one of the LIV Invitational Series, but that has now been deemed irrelevant. 

Mickelson, who is said to be pocketing £160million by defecting, showed an element of golfing tradition as he wore a black zip-up featuring the Augusta National logo when he took to the fairways. 

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United States Golf Association said of the Saudi-backed LIV Series last week that participation would not end a player’s ability to feature at the US Open in Brookline, Massachusetts, next week.

‘We pride ourselves in being the most open championship in the world and the players who have earned the right to compete in this year’s championship, both via exemption and qualifying, will have the opportunity to do so,’ read the USGA statement. 

‘Our field criteria were set prior to entries opening earlier this year and it’s not appropriate, nor fair to competitors, to change criteria once established.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan accused players of 'willfully violating regulation'

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan accused players of 'willfully violating regulation'

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan accused players of ‘willfully violating regulation’

PGA TOUR LETTER IN FULL 

‘PGA Tour members, 

I wish to provide you with an update and share information regarding the current and former PGA Tour players who are participating in the Saudi Golf League’s event in London today.

‘Thank you for your trust, patience and loyalty. 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 regulation.

‘Simultaneous to you receiving this memo, players (listed below) are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup. This also applies to all tours sanctioned by the PGA Tour: the Kom Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica. 

‘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. 

‘The same fate holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our regulations.

‘Also, in accordance with PGA Tour Tournament Regulations, the players who have resigned their memberships will be removed from FedExCup Points List when the official statistics following the RBC Canadian Open are posted on Sunday evening.

‘To be clear, these players will not be permitted to play in PGA Tour tournaments as a non-member via a sponsor exemption or any other eligibility criteria. 

‘For those who haven’t yet resigned, we will ensure they will not negatively impact your tournament eligibility, your position in the Priority Rankings or your eligibility to compete in the FedExCup Play-Offs. 

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‘We will update you as we work through this process.

‘You probably have more questions. What’s next? Can these players come back? Can they eventually play PGA Tour Champions? Trust that we have 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 platforms as you. 

‘The 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. 

‘You are the PGA Tour, and this moment is about what we stand for: the PGA Tour membership as a whole. 

‘It’s about lifting up those who choose not only to 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 that should be telling.

‘Regarding players who may choose to play in London this week, we simply asked ourselves this question – should a player who had earned his way into the 2022 U.S. Open, via our published field criteria, be pulled out of the field as a result of his decision to play in another event? And we ultimately decided that they should not.

‘Our decision regarding our field for the 2022 U.S. Open should not be construed as the USGA supporting an alternative organizing entity, nor supportive of any individual player actions or comments. 

‘Rather, it is simply a response to whether or not the USGA views playing in an alternative event, without the consent of their home tour, an offense that should disqualify them for the U.S. Open.’



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