PGA Tour golfers won't get releases to play in Saudi-backed rival league: reports

The tour told players who are seeking releases Tuesday afternoon and notified all players of the decision in a memo, the Associated Press reported. The first LIV Golf Invitational is set for June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club outside London.

“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.

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PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media during a press conference prior to THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 8, 2022 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media during a press conference prior to THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 8, 2022 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

“As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”

Greg Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Investments, funded primarily by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The league’s first tournament will have a 48-man field competing for a $ 20 million purse over 52 holes. The winner gets $ 4 million and last place gets $ 120,000.

Phil Mickelson said through his agent he asked for a conflicting event release to the London event. Lee Westwood confirmed last week he asked the PGA Tour and European tour for a lease. Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter were also among those who sought releases, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Five of LIV Golf’s tournaments are scheduled for the U.S., a direct challenge to the PGA Tour because its regulations do not allow for any releases for tournaments held in North America. The first is scheduled for July 1-3 near Portland, Oregon. Others are for suburban Chicago and suburban Boston, as well as course in New Jersey and Miami owned by former President Trump.

GREG NORMAN DEFENDS HIS SAUDI-BACKED GOLF SERIES: ‘I DO NOT ANSWER TO SAUDI ARABIA’

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, lines up a putt on the fifth hole during the first round of the The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. 

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, lines up a putt on the fifth hole during the first round of the The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The PGA Tour’s guidelines typically allow for players to get three releases to play in tournaments around the world. About two dozen PGA Tour golfers were allowed to play the Saudi International on Feb. 3-6, the same week as Pebble Beach. The caveat was that players going to the event would be required to play Pebble Beach as many as two times over the next three years.

Norman defended the Saudi-backed league in an interview with Sky Sports.

“They’re not my bosses. We’re independent. I do not answer to Saudi Arabia. I do not answer to MBS [Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud],” he said. “I answer to my board of directors, and MBS is not on that. Simple as that. So that narrative is untrue.”

Norman said that he understood people’s concerns about the source of the money funding the tour, considering the history of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. But he argued the country was attempting to make a “cultural change from within.” 

Professional golfer Greg Norman walks through the pit area during the third practice session for the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Professional golfer Greg Norman walks through the pit area during the third practice session for the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

“It’s reprehensible what happened with [Jamal] Khashoggi. Own up to it, talk about it,” he said. “But you go back to Saudi Arabia, they’re making a cultural change from within to change that. They don’t want to have that stigma sitting over there.”

“The generation of kids today that I see on the driving range, they don’t want that stigma going into that next generation and their kids. They want to change that culture, and they are changing that culture,” he added. “And you know how they are doing it? Golf.”

Fox News’ David Aaro and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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