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The PGA Tour refused to grant permission to players seeking to play in the upcoming LIV Golf Invitational event in England in a memo sent out Tuesday.
Eamon Lynch of golfweek reported the tour declined the waivers despite there being “a precedent allowing players limited releases for overseas events.”
The Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf league is launching with a June 11 tournament near London and is seeking to become a PGA Tour competitor. Several golfers, including Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson, have been linked to the new league, which has a $255 million total prize fund for its eight tournaments.
Controversy has surrounded LIV Golf in large part because of its relationship with the Saudi government. Mickelson took widespread criticism for his comments on the Saudi government’s human rights violations in a conversation with Alan Shipnuck.
“They’re scary motherf–kers to get involved with,” he said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson has since apologized. However, the comments did massive damage to his reputation and also led to some players backing out of the venture.
“There’s no question [Mickelson’s comments] hurt,” legendary golfer Greg Norman, who serves as the president of LIV Golf, told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. “It hurt a lot of aspects. It hurts the PGA Tour. It hurts us. It hurts the game of golf. It hurts Phil. So yeah, across all fronts. It wasn’t just specifically to us. But it definitely created negative momentum against us.”
The tour declining to allow players an exemption for the upcoming LIV event draws a clear line in the sand. It’s possible, if not likely, some players ignore the ruling of the tour and choose to play anyway.
It will be interesting to see what repercussions come from those players.