By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has described the Saudi-funded league that signed Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as an “exhibition game series” that spends billions of dollars. dollars in players with no return. on his investment.
Monahan also said players paid an exorbitant amount of money “would have to live under a rock” not knowing they would be criticized for the source of the money. LIV Golf is backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
“I would ask any player who left, or any player who was considering leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being a PGA Tour member?'” Monahan said from Toronto. during the CBS telecast of the RBC Canadian Open. .
It was 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 Centurion Golf Club outside London.
The LIV Golf Series has eight tournaments this year — five in the United States — with $25 million in prize money each, 54-hole events with no cups and 48-player courses. Charl Schwartzel won on the first Saturday and took home $4.75 million.
More than cash prizes, some players received huge signing fees. The Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson received $150 million, while Mickelson did not deny a report that he was paid $200 million for the startup. It was unclear for many years now that they were committed to it.
In recent days, Norman announced that DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have signed up and are expected to play the first American event in Oregon at the end of the month. None of the top 10 players in the world have shown interest in the new league.
Monahan said he suspended the players for violating tournament rules. They were denied releases to compete in the London event and opted to play anyway. Players usually get three versions for overseas events, and two dozen got them for the Saudi international.
Monahan said this is a single event associated with a recognized tour (Asian Tour), versus a series of events that pose a direct challenge to the PGA Tour playing in the United States.
“It’s my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, partners and fans, and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” Monahan said.
Norman and some players at the LIV Golf event talked about being free agents, able to play wherever they wanted, and positioned the new league as an addition to world golf instead of competing with the PGA Tour.
Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell were among those who resigned from their PGA Tour memberships. Mickelson, already at the Country Club on Sunday to begin preparing for the US Open, said he plans to keep the lifetime membership he gained with 45 wins and six majors.
When asked why players couldn’t play both tours, Monahan answered with his own question.
“Why do they need us so much?” he said. “These players chose to sign lucrative multi-year contracts to play a series of exhibition games against the same players over and over. You look at that compared to what we see here today.”
The Canadian Open featured Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau vying for the title, and Justin Rose challenging to shoot 59 or less 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 the real and pure competition that creates the profiles and presences of the greatest players in the world. And that’s why they need us. That’s what we do,” Monahan said.
“But we are not going to allow players to enjoy our loyal members for free.”
We still don’t know how the situation is going. The USGA has said it will not turn away a player who has earned his place on the court at the US Open, and the R&A is likely to honor the “open” nature of the British Open next month at St. Andrews .
Lawsuits are likely if PGA Tour players attempt to participate in an event after being suspended for registering and playing with LIV Golf. Norman said LIV Golf will support its players.
Monahan didn’t say if there was a return path for players who joined Norman’s league, or how it affects players who were never PGA Tour members.
Monahan was particularly keen on money from the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of “sportswashing” for using such a tour to distract from its history of human rights abuses.
He was asked how much of a problem the source of funding was.
“It’s not a problem for me, because I don’t work for the Saudi government,” said Monahan, a veiled dig at the thought of being a free agent. “But it’s probably a problem for the players who chose to go and 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’s been a lot of questions, a lot of comments about the growth of the game. And I’m asking, ‘How is this good for the game?’ »
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