When the PGA Tour sent an email to its membership late Tuesday informing players that it had denied requests for a conflicting-event release to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series inaugural event in London the same week as the Tour’s RBC Canadian Open, it was bound to become a topic of conversation at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.
“As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players,” wrote Tyler Dennis, the Tour’s senior vice president and chief of operation.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler said he had a busy night at home, woke up early and played his pro am and hadn’t had much time to process the Tour’s decision, but at first glance supported the move.
“I kind of figured that was something that would happen,” he said in his pre-tournament news conference ahead of the AT&T Byron Nelson in his hometown of Dallas. “If you’re playing here on the PGA Tour, playing in something that could be a rival series to the PGA Tour, being a member of our Tour, it’s definitely not something where we want our membership to do because it’s going to harm the tournament that we have opposite that and that’s, I’m sure that’s why they were, why they did not release the players. Because if we have 15 guys go over there and play that hurts the RBC and the Canadian Open.”
Will Zalatoris reacts after making a putt on the ninth green during the final round of the 2022 Zurich Classic of New Orleans in Avondale, Louisiana. (Photo: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports)
Will Zalatoris, last year’s Rookie of the Year and a member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, has been involved in talks behind closed doors and fully backed the decision made by Commissioner Jay Monahan.
“I thought that was the perfect response,” Zalatoris said. “Because we’re in a great place, the Tour’s in the best spot it’s ever been, it’s only going to get better and why would we want to, why would we encourage our players to get releases for those events when essentially we have all these sponsors that are involved with the Tour and are only making it better and better. We’re trying to promote our best product possible and if you want to be a part of this where it’s only getting better and better, then you shouldn’t have it both ways. You have a choice, I mean, you really do. You can go if you’d like, but, you know, it is what it is.”
Justin Thomas has made it clear repeatedly that he’s interested in winning tournaments and creating a legacy in the game more than simply lining his bank account with more lucre.
“I would hope it would deter them from going over there,” he said. “I think Jay’s made it very clear from the start of what would happen or, you know, I think a lot of people are probably like, “I can’t believe you did this’ or, ‘Wow, you went through with it .’ But I mean this is what he said was going to happen all along. And, yeah, it’s one of those things to where he just doesn’t want the competing tour, the back and forth. You know, it’s like, Look, if you want to go, go. I mean there’s been plenty of guys that have been advocates of it and have just talked it up all the time and they have been guys behind the scenes that are saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this.’ And like my whole thing is, like just go then. Like stop going back and forth or like you say you’re going to do this, it’s like you can do — everybody’s entitled to do what they want, you know what I mean?
“Like if I wanted to go play that tour I could go play that tour. But I’m loyal to the PGA Tour and I’ve said that and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for me to, I mean, break records, make history, do a lot of things on the PGA Tour I want to do. And there could be people that want to make that change and it’s like you’re allowed to have that decision, you’re a human being and that’s just a part of it.”
Former European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley, who played most of his career on the DP World Tour, served as both a captain, Ryder Cup teammate and fellow competitor with many of the European players linked with joining the LIV series (including Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia among others) brings a Euro-centric perspective. He expressed his opinion in an interview Wednesday with SiriusXM and joined Scheffler, Thomas and Zalatoris in supporting the established tours, which announced a strategic alliance in 2020 and have been rumored to be discussing a closer relationship to fend off the Saudi threat.
“I’m not gonna make this personal, they’re all friends of mine,” McGinley said. “But I’m very much a traditionalist, I’m very much aligned with the PGA, DP World Tour and the major championships indeed in terms of retaining and improving the status quo that we have at the moment, which is, you know, every week that we have both European and PGA Tours. So I want to enhance that. I think we have commonalities between the two tours trying to enhance that, uh, get somewhat of a world schedule going together. I know there’s some talks gone on behind the scenes in that regard of those two major tours coming together and working more collaboratively going forward.”
LIV Golf, which Tuesday announced a $2 billion infusion to support its launch, has been touting exorbitant purses and guaranteed money to lure players to enter its events.
“I can somewhat understand and see where the guys are coming from. I mean, the amount of money that’s been put on the table is an incredible amount of, huge amount of money. And so late in their careers an opportunity to make so much money,” McGinley said. “In a lot of ways I can understand the enticement that they’ve been offered and why they would be interested in it. But it’s not certainly, personally from my point of view, the side of the fence that I’m on.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one pro who splits time on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour told our Eamon Lynch the following: “I’m for sure weighing up the pros and cons of making a jump like this. What Jay [Monahan] decides is a hugely important part of that. Asking permission to play an international ‘tour’ event is something I’ve done with the PGA Tour since I first took my card many years ago. I understand the initial construct of this LIV tour was destructive in nature if the PGA Tour didn’t want part of it. Here in the short term, the events are being scheduled to be as non-conflicting as possible which is difficult to do. As a player who plays multiple tours, conflicting events is something we always deal with and I don’t see how the LIV tour is any different until it’s 48 guys locked in for 14 events a season.”
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the players who have supported the PGA Tour over the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League