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GOLF

What is the LIV Golf Invitational Series and what’s the dispute with the PGA?

Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Invitational Series is set to get underway in London on 9 June but the PGA Tour has blocked players from taking part.

Update:
POTOMAC, MARYLAND - MAY 08: James Hahn of the United States lines up a putt on the 16th green during the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm on May 08, 2022 in Potomac, Maryland. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory ShamusGetty

The inaugural edition of Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Invitational Series is set to get underway at the Centurion Club in London on 9 June but not everyone is happy about the new tournament - particularly the PGA Tour, who are blocking players from taking part.

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood both requested permission from the PGA Tour to participate only to be denied. The identities of those who have signed up to take part are not known due to player confidentiality agreements. LIV Golf confirmed to Golf Digest that at least 15 players from the top 100 of the world ranking have consented to take part in the eight-leg series and around 70 players in total have signed up for at least one individual event.

PGA Tour rules state that the decision to grant releases for Tour members to take part in external competitions or not, must be made at least 30 days before the start of the event. That means that the list of participants must be revealed today. PGA members could be suspended, fined or have their membership revoked for playing at the LIV event without permission.

A memo to PGA Tour members from Senior vice president and Chief of Operations Tyler Dennis read: “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. As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA TOUR and its players.”

Competitions overlap

Part of the problem is that some of the legs of the LIV Golf Invitational Series coincide with PGA Tour events - the London leg tees off on the same day as the RBC Canadian Open. The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series in St. Albans is less of a problem for the PGA Tour as it is being held outside of the United States but that will change completely when the second leg of the LIV Golf series comes to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland on 1 July - the first of five stops in the US tour. That is when the PGA Tour’s legal team could get involved as it would breach competitions regulations according to the fine print in . PGA Tour members are allowed to play in up to three rival events per season - as long as they are not held in North America. The Portland event overlaps with the John Deere Classic.

The PGA Tour handbook specifies: “On a date on which any cosponsored PGA TOUR Champions tournament is being played, PGA TOUR will not cosponsor or approve any other similar golf tournament without the advance written consent of the first scheduled PGA TOUR Champions tournament or event, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld. “Similar golf event” means a tournament of the same type. No conflicting event releases will be approved for tournaments held in North America”.

Fresh outlook

LIV Golf meanwhile say their mission “is to modernize and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike. It is an opportunity to reinvigorate golf through a structure that adds value to the entire sport while helping to bring new audiences to the game through a cutting-edge entertainment product”.

The eight legs of their 2022 tour, classed as individual events, take in London, Portland, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok, Jeddah and Miami. The 54-hole LIV Golf tournaments feature smaller courses, fewer rounds, a defined season, shorter playing windows, and shotgun starts (players tee off simultaneously from different holes). Players are attracted by the lucrative prize money on offer - $4 million to the winner and $25 million in total.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman insists that the PGA Tour should not hold a monopoly on what tournaments can be staged and who can take part in them. In a statement, Norman explained, “Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament. 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. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally.”

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