Let the games begin! On Tuesday afternoon, the PGA Tour denied releases to the golfers seeking permission to play in the first event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series. The debut tournament for LIV Golf is set to take place from June 9-11 in London, England -- which coincides with the PGA Tour's RBC Canadian Open. Because of the scheduling conflict, the PGA Tour would need to grant its players a release in order to take part in the event.
"We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA TOUR Tournament Regulations. As such, TOUR members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League's London event under our regulations," PGA Tour senior VP Tyler Dennis said in a memo. "As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA TOUR and its players."
Originally, the expectation was that the PGA Tour would allow players to participate in LIV Golf events that weren't taking place on North American soil. However, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan swiftly shut the door on that idea, denying the players an opportunity to partake in the inaugural tournament.
"Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it's exclusively in a PGA-Tour tournament," said LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman. "This is particularly disappointing in light of the Tour's non-profit status, where its mission is purportedly to promote the common interests of professional tournament golfers. Instead, the Tour is intent on perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market. The Tour's action is anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive. But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped."
LIV Golf's eight-event series has four tournaments scheduled to be played in the United States, including a team championship match play event at Trump Doral in Miami, Florida from October 28-30. The second LIV event is currently set for July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in Portland, Oregon. PGA Tour players have until May 17 to request a release for that event, but it seems unlikely that they will be allowed to participate.
"Portland will probably be an interesting beachhead for player releases and those who want to come play," Norman said in a statement last week. "But irrespective, it's going to happen. Portland will take place. The same with Trump Bedminster, the International, Rich Harvest Farms, and Trump Doral. It's all going to happen."
Players Headed To London
According to Sports Illustrated, LIV Golf received 170 entries for the debut event in London, including 19 of the World's top 100 players.
Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia are three players that have been confirmed to have requested releases from the PGA Tour. Per reports from The Telegraph in London, Mickelson received $30 million upfront to join the LIV Golf Invitational series and must appear in each of the eight events. Mickelson told long-time Golf writer Alan Shipnuck in a February interview that he would be interested in joining despite the Saudi's being "scary mother (bleep)-ers", while also dismissing their past history of human rights violations.