For a long while, it looked as though the existential threat posed by the Saudi-funded LIV Tour would be of little concern to the established meritocracy of the PGA and DP World Tours.
Ageing veterans like Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter had thrown their hats into the ring to compete for the morally-questionable big bucks, while bizarrely world number 1124 Robert Garrigus was also one of the players seeking exemption into the events.
Some of golf’s biggest stars, including Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau, denounced the LIV as a money grab and committed their future to the PGA Tour, and that appeared to be that.
But now the field for the first LIV event, the LIV Golf Invitational, has been revealed, and there are some considerable players in the mix – not least the Masters champions Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia and former Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen.
They will be joined by players who are still relevant as tournament winners, including 2021 Honda Classic champion Matt Jones, five-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Na and Talor Gooch, the world number 35 who, at the age of 30, still has plenty of big moments ahead of him.
Six more names are due to be announced shortly, although Mickelson is not expected to be amongst them after revealing he is taking a break from golf following the backlash over his comments about the PGA Tour being ‘manipulative and coercive’.
What Now for the PGA Tour?
What happens next remains to be seen, although the PGA Tour has previously rejected appeals from their players to be allowed to compete. Their senior vice president Tyler Dennis said:
“Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event under our regulations. As a membership organisation, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”
Greg Norman, the two-time major champion and now LIV Golf CEO, has described the PGA as ‘anti-golf, anti-fan, anti-competitive’, and retorted:
“Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament. The Tour is intent on perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market.”
If Johnson and co go ahead with their plans to compete at the Centurion Club in London from June 9, will they be sanctioned by the PGA Tour? And if they are, will the players join forces and take the PGA to court over their stance?
The other matter of interest is that those involved are willing to scupper their own chances of winning one of golf’s majors, the US Open, which gets underway in Massachusetts on June 16. Those involved at Centurion will need to fly to America, shake off jet lag and then have barely a day or two to get a look at The Country Club host course.
Is the Saudi Golf League really worth derailing your bid for major championship glory for? The $25 million (£20 million) prize fund has certainly made a few question their own ambitions in the sport….