PGA chief criticizes Saudi-funded competition as series of exhibitions

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts (AP) — PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan described the Saudi Arabia-funded league that Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau signed up to as a “series of exhibition games” that spends billions of dollars on players without getting anything in return. his investment.

Monahan also said that players who pay an exorbitant amount “have to live under a rock” not to know that they would be criticized for the source of the money. LIV Golf is supported by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Investment Fund.

“I would ask any player who has left, or any player who would ever consider leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being on the PGA Tour?'” Monahan said from Toronto on the CBS broadcast. of the RBC Canadian Open. †

They were Monahan’s first public comments since Thursday, when Greg Norman’s LIV Golf series began and Monahan suspended all PGA Tour members who played at the Centurion Golf Club outside of London.

The LIV Golf Series this year features eight tournaments — five in the United States — with $25 million each in prize money, 54-hole no-cut events, and 48-manfield events. Charl Schwartzel won the first on Saturday, earning $4.75 million.

Some players received not only prize money, but also huge signing money. The Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson received $150 million, while Mickelson did not deny receiving $200 million for the startup venture. It was not clear for many years now that they are being committed.

In recent days, Norman announced that DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have signed up and are expected to play the first US event in Oregon at the end of the month. None of the top 10 players in the world have shown any interest in the new league.

Monahan said he has suspended the players for violating tournament rules. They were not released to participate in the London event and chose to play anyway. Players usually get three releases for overseas events and two dozen have them for the Saudi International.

Monahan said this was a single event associated with a recognized tour (Asian Tour), compared to a series of events that directly challenge the PGA Tour by playing in the US

“My job is to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans, and that’s exactly what I did,” said Monahan.

Norman and some players in the LIV Golf event have talked about being free agents, able to play wherever they want, and have positioned the new league as an addition to world golf rather than competing with the PGA Tour.

Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell were among those who canceled their PGA Tour membership. Mickelson, who is already at The Country Club on Sunday preparing for the US Open, has said he plans to keep the lifetime membership he earned with 45 wins and six majors.

When asked why players couldn’t play both tours, Monahan replied with a question of his own.

“Why do they need us so badly?” he said. “Those players have chosen to sign multi-year, lucrative contracts to play against the same players over and over in a series of exhibition games. You look at that versus what we see here today.”

At the Canadian Open, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau competed for the title, and Justin Rose challenged to shoot 59 or lower until he had to settle for a 60.

“You have real, pure competition, the best players in the world here at the RBC Canadian Open, with millions of fans watching. And in this game it is real and pure competition that creates the profiles and presence of the world’s best players. And that’s why they need us. That’s what we do,” Monahan said.

“But we are not going to allow players to drive away from our loyal members for free.”

It is still unclear how the situation will progress. The USGA has said it will not deny a player who has earned his spot in the field at the US Open, and the R&A is likely to honor the “open” nature of the British Open at St Andrews next month.

Lawsuits are likely if PGA Tour players attempt to participate in an event after being banned for registering and playing LIV Golf. Norman has said that LIV Golf would support its players.

Monahan did not say if there was a way back for players who have joined Norman’s league, or how it will affect players who have never joined the PGA Tour.

Monahan is especially biting the money coming from the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of “sportswashing” for using such a tour to divert attention from its history of human rights abuses.

He was asked how big the problem of the funding source was.

“It’s not a problem for me because I don’t work for the Saudi Arabian government,” said Monahan, a veiled dig at the idea of ​​being a free agent. “But it’s probably a problem for players who chose to take that money. I think you have to ask yourself a question: why.

“Why is this group spending so much money – billions of dollars – recruiting players and pursuing a concept with no possibility of return?” he said. “At the same time, there were a lot of questions, a lot of comments about the game’s growth. And I ask, ‘How is this good for the game?’”

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