LONDON — The PGA Tour on Thursday said it had suspended the 17 players who have taken part in the first event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, a move that punished the rebel pros but also seemed aimed at dissuading further defections.
In a memo sent to his membership, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, said those golfers who teed off in the first LIV Golf event, which began Thursday outside London, were “no longer eligible to participate” in events on the American-based tour or any of its affiliated tours. He also vowed to apply the same suspension to any pro who joins one of the rival tour’s coming events.
Ahead of the event at the Centurion Club, the majority of players who had signed on with LIV Golf, including Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na and Sergio García, said they had resigned from the PGA Tour, perhaps to avoid a suspension or lifetime ban. But Monahan’s letter said they faced excommunication anyway.
“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” Monahan wrote to tour players. “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.”
The memo did not make clear how it would deal in the future with the players who have been lured to commit to playing on the LIV Golf circuit or those tempted to join them by the new tour’s huge appearance fees and a format that guarantees every entrant six-figure payouts at each event.
LIV Golf quickly issued a response that suggested it would not be cowed.
“Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members,” its statement said. “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 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.”