The PGA Tour did not approve its members to play in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series next month in London, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.
Because the debut tournament is scheduled for June 9-11, in conflict with the tour's RBC Canadian Open, PGA Tour players by rule had to be granted a release to play the opposing event. The tour has granted releases in the past for events such as the Saudi International, but it has now denied all requests related to LIV.
“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations,” a memo to PGA Tour players reportedly said. “As such, Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League's London event under our regulations. As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”
Now PGA Tour players officially must choose whether to play in the lucrative LIV series anyway and risk punishment from the tour, which may include a ban. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told players in February that those interested in LIV should “walk out that door now,” according to a Golf Channel report.
The Saudi-financed golf league headed by LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has attracted controversy over the past several months. Norman at one point issued a public letter to the PGA Tour saying it could not deny its golfers, whom he described as “independent contractors,” from playing where they wanted.
Sports Illustrated reported that 170 players applied to enter the 48-player field for London, including 19 of the top 100 and 36 of the top 150 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood of England, Sergio Garcia of Spain and Martin Kaymer of Germany are the most notable names to publicly disclose that they applied for a release.
Mickelson's representatives said that while he applied for the release, he had not yet made up his mind about whether to play. Garcia, meanwhile, appeared to have one foot out the door when he grew frustrated with a rules official at last week's Wells Fargo Championship, saying, “I can't wait to leave this tour. Can't wait to get outta here. Just a couple more weeks and I won't have to deal with you anymore.”