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How did the LIV golfers react to being banned from the PGA Tour?

The PGA Tour on Thursday suspended the membership of 17 rebel golfers for their involvement in the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Update:
The PGA Tour on Thursday suspended the membership of 17 rebel golfers for their involvement in the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Matthew LewisGetty

The PGA Tour has suspended 17 golfers for participating in the LIV Golf Invitational Series without the body’s permission, after the opening event of the controversial, Saudi-backed tournament got underway in the UK on Thursday.

In a statement released after LIV Golf London teed off at Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the players had been banned for “choosing to compete this week without the proper conflicting event and media rights release”.

Monahan added: “Their participation in the Saudi Golf League/LIV Golf event is in violation of our Tournament Regulations. The same fate holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our Regulations.”

Nine of 17 banned golfers had already resigned PGA Tour membership

The 17 suspended players are: Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Dustin Johnson, Matt Jones, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Andy Ogletree, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford, Peter Uihlein and Lee Westwood.

The PGA Tour’s statement confirmed that nine of these players - García, Grace, Johnson, Kaymer, McDowell, Na, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Westwood - had already resigned from the Tour before being banned.

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” Monahan said to Tour members. “But they can’t demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners.”

The banned players are “no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play”, Monahan said.

McDowell: “We should be allowed to play where we want”

McDowell, who revealed that he had resigned his PGA Tour membership “about 30 minutes” before his tee time on Thursday, said: “The Tour has to do what they feel is necessary. I don’t think it’s healthy for the sport. We’re here because we believe we’re independent contractors - we should be allowed to compete and play where we want to, all over the world.”

He added: “It’s disappointing. There’s not a whole lot we can do about it, obviously. As players, we’re here understanding the consequences of what may lay ahead of us.”

Poulter to appeal: “It makes no sense”

Meanwhile, Poulter said he planned to challenge his suspension. “I will appeal for sure,” he said. “It makes no sense. Having two Tour cards and the ability to play golf all over the world, what’s wrong with that? I believe I’ve been given permission in the past to play in events around the world.”

García: “It doesn’t bother me”

García said he was unfazed by his suspension. “It doesn’t bother me,” the Spaniard said. “I’m very happy where I am and I’m excited for this tour. I thought that today was a great day to start and that’s what I’m going to focus on. I resigned a week and a half ago, so whatever the PGA Tour says doesn’t go with me because I’m not a member.”

Mickelson said: “Any PGA Tour matters I’m not going to discuss publicly at this time.”

LIV Golf hits outs at “vindictive” move

In a statement, LIV Golf, which is led by former world No. 1 golfer Greg Norman, branded the PGA Tour’s announcement “vindictive”, declaring: “It deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic.”

Lucrative LIV Golf Series under fire over Saudi backing

The lucrative, eight-leg LIV Golf Series, which is supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), offers its participants potential prize money of $4m per event - considerably more than the $2.7m in prize money available to the winner of the The Masters and the PGA Championship. Every player will pick up $120,000 just for completing all 54 holes at an event.

Given Saudi Arabia’s notoriously poor human rights record, the LIV Golf players have been heavily criticised for their involvement in the tournament. Amnesty International has labelled them “willing stooges of Saudi sportswashing”.

In May, Amnesty called Norman “wrong and seriously misguided” after the Australian said “we’ve all made mistakes” in response to a question about the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi government has insisted Khashoggi’s murder was at the hands of rogue operatives, but a 2019 UN report said his death “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

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