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PGA Tour suspends golfers competing in Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational

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Shortly after PGA Tour breakaway league LIV Golf teed off its inaugural tournament just north of London, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan sent a memo to members. According to that memo, the 17 PGA Tour members competing in the LIV Golf tournament are no longer eligible for PGA Tour events. The 17 include golfing legend Phil Mickelson, former world ranked No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and former world ranked No. 2 Sergio Garcia.

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

Monahan said the players who resigned will have their names removed from the PGA Tour standings — FedEx Cup and Presidents Cup — after this week. It wasn’t immediately clear if the 17 players could ever return to the PGA Tour.

“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,” LIV Golf said in response to the PGA Tour announcement. “This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond.”

While the PGA’s issue with its members participating revolves around scheduling, it’s far from the only conflict the golfers — and LIV Golf itself — have had to deal with. The league is run by Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Saudi Arabia has been criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International for its treatment of women, use of the death penalty and hostility to LGBTQ+ rights. The fund’s chair, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been accused of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We all agree that that was reprehensible. No one’s going to argue that fact,” golfer Graeme McDowell said in a news conference earlier this week. “But we’re golfers … we’re not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but we’re really not, unfortunately.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jimmie Johnson: A BREAK-AWAY GOLF LEAGUE IS SHAKING UP THE PGA.
ESPECIALLY FOR THE PLAYERS WHO DECIDED TO JOIN.
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE INAUGURAL LIV GOLF EVENT WHICH GOT UNDERWAY THIS MORNING.
SHORTLY AFTER THE OPENING TEE — THE P-G-A COMMISSIONER BROUGHT DOWN THE HAMMER.
HE SUSPENDED 17 TOUR MEMBERS – SAYING THEY ARE NO LONGER ELIGIBLE FOR P-G-A EVENTS.
IT’S UNCLEAR IF THE PLAYERS WILL EVER BE WELCOMED BACK.
AND THESE ARE BIG NAMES IN THE GOLF WORLD.
INCLUDING PHIL MICKELSON, DUSTIN JOHNSON AND SERGIO GARCIA.
LIV GOLF — AS WELL AS THE GOLFERS COMPETING — ARE AT THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY BECAUSE OF THE LEAGUE’S SAUDI FUNDING.
SAUDI ARABIA HAS BEEN CRITICIZED FOR ITS HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD — INCLUDING THE COUNTRY’S TREATMENT OF WOMEN AND ITS ALLEGED ROLE IN THE KILLING OF JOURNALIST JAMAL KHASHOGGI.
Graeme McDowell | Golfer: “We’re not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but we’re really not, unfortunately we’re professional golfers. If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be, and they have the resources to accelerate that experience. You know, I think we’re proud to help them on that journey.”}