The PGA Tour has denied releases to the players looking to play in the first event of the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
The debut tournament, set to take place in London from June 9-11, coincides with the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open that week. As a result, PGA Tour players would have to be granted a release from the tour to compete in the LIV tournament.
The expectation was that the PGA Tour would grant releases to players, similar to ones it’s given for other international events, but that won’t be the case, as the tour notified its players through a memo Tuesday.
“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,” the memo read. “As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”
In the past, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan threatened players with suspensions and/or lifetime bans if they competed in the LIV Golf series without releases.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman told ESPN last week that he had players registered who were willing to challenge the PGA Tour’s position in court.
“I can only speak on information given to me by our legal team, and I have an extremely talented legal team in antitrust and anti-competitive laws, and we believe we’re in the right position,” Norman said. “We believe the players are independent contractors and have a right to go play wherever they want to go play.”
The eight-event LIV series will feature four tournaments played in the United States. It will include seven regular-season events and a team championship match play finale at Trump Doral in Miami from Oct. 28-30.
The second Saudi event is scheduled for July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon. May 17 is the deadline for requesting a release from the tour for that event.
It was anticipated that releases might be granted for overseas events, but not for tournaments in the U.S.
“Portland will probably be an interesting beachhead for player releases and those who want to come play,” Norman said last week. “But irrespective, it’s going to happen. Portland will take place. The same with Trump Bedminster, the International, Rich Harvest Farms and Trump Doral. It’s all going to happen.”
Phil Mickelson is among the players who had sought a release to play in the London event, his longtime agent, Steve Loy of Sportfive, said last month. Longtime PGA Tour members Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia have also confirmed that they requested releases from the tour.
Norman told ESPN last week that more than 200 players had registered for the first event, including about 15 of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Norman said he had tried to work with the PGA Tour, but Monahan hadn’t been willing to do so.
“For the PGA Tour to say we’re a breakaway league is completely wrong,” Norman said. “We’re not a breakaway tour, we’re an additive to the ecosystem of the game of golf. To cast this animus against me [is wrong]. It goes to other institutions as well. Just because I’m very blessed and fortunate enough to be the CEO of this opportunity to grow the game of golf, don’t target me for specific stuff and reasons. That’s crazy.”