Golf’s civil war erupted with another dispute on the day the inaugural LIV Golf event teed off at the Centurion Club just outside Hemel Hempstead.
“Golf, but louder” goes the LIV slogan – and there was certainly plenty of noise when all 48 players took to the course simultaneously across 16 different holes on Thursday afternoon.
That was, in part, down to a suitably timed memo from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who told members featuring in the Saudi-backed series that they will be suspended from future PGA events, including the Presidents Cup.
“These players have made their choice for their own financial based reasons,” Monahan wrote.
“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.”
LIV Golf, financially backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, responded by calling the PGA Tour “vindictive” and claimed the move “deepens the divide between the Tour and its members”.
“It’s troubling that the Tour, an organisation dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing,” LIV Golf added.
“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.”
Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood were among the players to have already relinquished their PGA membership, and so the suspension applies more to the LIV participants, including Ian Poulter, who had not informed the organisation they would be resigning.
Full list of players and LIV Golf team names
The seven major champions in the opening-event field are Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
The event at the Centurion Club boasts a 48-strong field, comprising of 12 teams, with a captain (in bold) leading each team:
- 4 ACES – Dustin Johnson, Shaun Norris, Oliver Bekker, Kevin Yuan
- HY FLYERS – Phil Mickelson, Justin Harding, TK Chantananuwat (a), Chase Koepka
- PUNCH – Wade Ormsby, Matt Jones, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Blake Windred
- CLEEKS – Martin Kaymer, Pablo Larrazabal, JC Ritchie, Ian Snyman
- IRON HEADS – Kevin Na, Sadom Kaewkanjana, Hideto Tanihara, Viraj Madappa
- SMASH – Sihwan Kim, Scott Vincent, Jinichiro Kozuma, Itthipat Buranatanyarat
- CRUSHERS – Peter Uihlein, Richard Bland, Phachara Khongwatmai, Travis Smyth
- MAJESTICKS – Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sam Horsfield, Laurie Canter
- STINGER – Louis Oosthuizen, Hennie du Plessis, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace
- FIREBALLS – Sergio Garcia, David Puig (a), James Piot (a), Jediah Morgan
- NIBLICKS – Graeme McDowell, Bernd Wiesberger, Turk Pettit, Oliver Fisher
- TORQUE – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Adrian Otaegui, Andy Ogletree
Bryson DeChambeau is set to play in the second event, with Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler also reportedly close to signing up.
On Wednesday, lifetime PGA Tour member Phil Mickelson had said he was unwilling to give up his affiliation. “I worked really hard to earn a lifetime exemption, and I don’t want to give that up, I don’t believe I should have to,” the winner of 45 PGA Tour events, and now captain of the “Hy Flyers”, said.
“I don’t know what that means for the future, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve earned that, and I don’t plan on just giving it up.”
LIV Golf participants are clear to play in next week’s US Open, but the rift is likely to become more fractured later this month, with the second event in Portland – which starts on 30 June – set to boast Bryson DeChambeau, while Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed are reportedly close to signing up as well.
And in the words of Rory McIlroy, who committed his future to the PGA Tour on Wednesday, the “boatloads of cash” LIV Golf is offering will likely entice more players to cross this evolving divide.
Mickelson pocketed a reported $200m (£159m) before even swinging a club on Thursday, while the individual winner of the first event will take home $4m (£3.2m) and potentially more if their team finish in the top three.
Monahan, meanwhile, stressed the PGA Tour would still thrive amid the chaos LIV Golf has brought with it, pointedly stating prize asset Tiger Woods has helped create a lasting legacy while also promising fans “who are surely tired of all this talk of money, money and more money” that they will continue to be “entertained and compelled by the world-class competition”.
“The RBC Canadian Open is a shining example of what you have created with the PGA Tour: a star-studded field, a committed sponsor, sold-out hospitality offerings, record crowds and a global broadcast distribution,” Monahan concluded.
“These elements are part of the Tour’s DNA, built by the likes of Jack and Arnie, furthered by Tiger and countless others – whose legacies are inextricably linked, with each other and with the PGA Tour. This collective legacy can’t be bought or sold.”