The PGA Tour reacting like the scorned spouse

The PGA Tour reacting like the scorned spouse
June 15
13:23 2022

In a childish and petty move, the PGA Tour has suspended all 17 golfers who decided to compete in the inaugural LIV Golf International Series event.

The list of golfers are not just no-name players but instead includes some big names in the world of golf and multiple major championship winners. Some of the players resigned their membership on the PGA Tour before playing in the LIV Golf event that started last Thursday. As a result, those players are no longer eligible to compete in PGA Tour events or the Presidents Cup.

Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time major champion Dustin Johnson, along with well-known players like Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter were among the 17 golfers. They are joined by Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Matt Jones, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Andy Ogletree, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihlein. 

The issue for the PGA Tour is that the LIV Golf Series is supported by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam. Salam has been linked to several human rights violations, which include the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The LIV Golf Series also has a few different nuances as compared to the PGA Tour. Instead of 72-hole events, the LIV Golf Series has a 54-hole format. They also have shotgun starts, no cuts and a team format. The seven regular season events are offering $25 million purses, which is the richest in the history of the sport. According to reports, the top players of the series also received signing bonuses worth more than $100 million, which is tough to turn down.

I find it funny that the PGA Tour is trying to take the moral high ground over the LIV Golf Series as if Augusta National Golf Club didn’t bar Black members until 1990 when they first allowed a Black man, Ron Townsend, to join after pressure from public attention. Augusta National hosts several annual events including the Masters Tournament, which is one of the PGA Tour’s major events and is probably the most high-profile golf event in the world.

Augusta National was built in 1932 and barred Black members for decades. The club’s co-founder Clifford Roberts once said, “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white, and all the caddies will be black.” Any tour that would allow one of their major tournaments to be hosted at a location with such a racist history has no moral standing to judge anyone else or their alleged wrongdoings.

This was the response to the 17 golfers from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to tour membership: “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.”

Monahan also wrote that any players who take part in future LIV Golf events will suffer the same punishment. With the money that the LIV Golf series is offering, I am not sure that the PGA is in a position to suspend players as they may continue to lose more high-profile golfers. Some have even stated they will fight the suspension from the tour.

Monahan seems confident that the tour partners and fans will back his stance on the suspension.

“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 winners’ circle,” he continued.

“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 to not only 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 the same should be telling.”

Players such as Bryson DeChambeau had agreed to play in future LIV Golf events. As I was writing this column, I saw a report that stated DeChambeau had officially signed on with the LIV Golf Series last Friday, which marks yet another big-name player to join the series.

“Bryson DeChambeau is an exciting addition to LIV Golf’s supercharged style of play. He is passionate about the sport, innovative in his approach and committed to pushing the boundaries in pursuit of excellence,” said Greg Norman, LIV Golf CEO and commissioner. “He’s not afraid to think outside the box and supports our mission of doing things differently to grow our game. The power and energy he brings to the course will deliver added electricity to our competition in Portland (Oregon, site of the series’ first U.S. event) and beyond.”

I think the list of golfers who are willing to defect from the PGA Tour will continue to rise as we head into the summer months. The PGA Tour has had a stranglehold on the world of golf, but this new series is offering so much money, it is going to be hard for many of the golfers to turn it down, even with the threat of suspension from the PGA Tour.

I don’t see this ending with a merger of the two tours like the NBA/ABA or NFL/AFL merged to form one league. With the LIV Golf Series being so flush with money, they can pretty much do whatever they want or need. I will be interested to see if any major sports television network chooses to collaborate with them to air their events. I know I am not the only sports fan out there that is interested in seeing how these events compare to a PGA Tour event.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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