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PGA Tour denies requests to play in LIV Golf Invitational

The PGA Tour is drawing a line in the sand.

Golfers who requested waivers to play in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational near London in June were notified of their denials on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

Members of the PGA Tour all must obtain a release to compete in outside events.

The LIV Golf Invitational has a $25 million purse. Confirmed golfers include Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, who had something of a meltdown at the Wells Fargo Championship last week, implying the move was coming while searching for a lost ball.

The tournament is the first event in a controversial series that is backed by the government of Saudi Arabia and headed by golf legend Greg Norman.

An anonymous golfer admitted to USA Today’s Golfweek he is “weighing the pros and cons” of competing in these LIV events.

“I’m for sure weighing up the pros and cons of making a jump like this. What [PGA commissioner 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,” the player said. “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.”

The Greg Norman-led LIV Golf Invitational has drawn interest from golfers — though the PGA has denied their requests to participate.
WME IMG via Getty Images

The series has promised to pay golfers more money — and guaranteed appearance fees — for fewer events than they currently compete in on the PGA Tour.

Players who defy the PGA Tour’s rejection to compete in the LIV series face unspecified discipline, and there has been speculation for months that the punishment could include banishment from the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson drew considerable criticism when he downplayed human rights concerns pertaining to the Saudi government associated with potentially playing in the upstart series.

FILE - Phil Mickelson plays his shot from the second tee
Phil Mickelson has kept a low profile since saying he could look past Saudi Arabia’s questionable human rights history in order to leverage the PGA Tour.
AP Photo

“They’re scary mother [expletive] to get involved with,” Mickelson told his biographer Alan Shipnuck in comments that were publicized in February. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

Mickelson has since gone into seclusion, with much speculation that he faced a “shadow ban” from the PGA Tour, and officials refusing to confirm or deny this belief. Nevertheless, it appears as though he will be defending his 2021 PGA Championship next week at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla.

For his part, Norman denied that the Saudi government is hands-on in its control of the upstart series.

“They’re not my bosses. We’re independent. I do not answer to Saudi Arabia. I do not answer to [Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud],” Norman recently told Sky Sports. “I answer to my board of directors, and MBS is not on that. Simple as that. So that narrative is untrue.”

“It’s reprehensible what happened with Khashoggi. Own up to it. Talk about it,” he said. “But you go back to Saudi Arabia — they’re making a cultural change from within to change that. They don’t want to have that stigma sitting over there.”

“The generation of kids today that I see on the driving range, they don’t want that stigma going into that next generation and their kids,” he continued. “They want to change that culture, and they are changing that culture. And you know how they are doing it? Golf.”

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