PGA Tour suspends 17 golfers, including Phil Mickelson, for playing in Saudi-backed LIV event
Phil Mickelson plays on the 18th during the Pro-Am at the Centurion Club, Hertfordshire ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Steven Paston | PA Images | Getty Images
The PGA Tour has suspended 17 golfers, including major championship winners Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, who are competing Thursday in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf event near London. The suspensions are indefinite.
The players “did not receive the necessary conflicting event and media rights release — or did not apply for releases at all,” according to an internal PGA Tour memo. According to a Thursday memo, the PGA Tour will also suspend future tour players who participate in LIV events.
“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” the memo reads. They can’t expect the same PGA TOUR benefits, considerations and opportunities as you. “
Mickelson, who’s about to turn 52, has been a major recruiter for LIV Golf, which is funded mainly by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Since February, he has not participated in any golf tournament. His deal with LIV is reportedly worth about $200 million. Johnson’s deal is worth about $125 million, The New York Post reported.
Mickelson, who has won six major golf championships, is second behind Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour’s career money leader list with nearly $95 million. Johnson is third with about $74 million. According to Greg Norman (CEO of LIV Golf Investments), Woods declined a huge offer to join LIV. )
Norman, Mickelson and others have taken heat for aligning with the venture despite the Saudi government’s past human rights abuses, including its involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (Several people were sentenced to prison by a Saudi court for the murder. In February , Mickelson stated to his biographer that he believes it is “scary” for him to be involved in the Saudis’ killing, but that there were other factors.
Read the PGA Tour memo here.
“They execute people over there for being gay. Considering all this, why would you even consider it? He said that this was a unique opportunity to reshape the PGA Tour’s operations.
Mickelson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC. Johnson stated that he did not have any comment.
As for whether the players will be able to rejoin the tour later, the PGA Tour memo said, “Trust that we’re prepared to deal with those questions and we’ll approach them in the same way we have this entire process: by being transparent and respecting the PGA TOUR regulations that you helped establish. “
LIV Golf in a statement called the decision “vindictive” and said it “deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. “
“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. This is certainly not the end of the story. “The era of free agency has begun as we are proud of having a full field joining us in London and beyond,” the organization stated.
The LIV event in England is the first of eight scheduled tournaments. Five of them are scheduled for the United States, with two on courses owned and operated by former President Donald Trump.
Here is the list of players. The asterisks indicate players who have informed the PGA Tour they are resigning from their memberships. The full Internal Memo can be found here.
- Sergio Garcia*
- Talor Gooch
- Branden Grace*
- Dustin Johnson*
- Matt Jones
- Martin Kaymer*
- Graeme McDowell*
- Phil Mickelson
- Kevin Na*
- Andy Ogletree
- Louis Oosthuizen*
- Turk Pettit*
- Ian Poulter
- Charl Schwartzel*
- Hudson Swafford
- Peter Uihlein
- Lee Westwood*
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.