The first bombs have fallen in the war that shakes world golf. A few minutes after at 3:15 p.m. this Thursday, the 48 players who compete in London for the first round of the LIV Golf circuit, the million-dollar Saudi league, hit their first shots at the Centurion Golf Club, the American circuit reacted with a strong hand against the rebels. The 17 golfers who belong to his organization and who have signed up without permission in the first of the eight events in the Saudi league have been expelled from the house. Among them are Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, although the first two, along with eight other players, had already resigned before facing these sanctions.
“In accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Rules, players who compete this week without permission are suspended or ineligible to participate in tour tournaments, including the Presidents Cup. [torneo entre golfistas de EEUU y una selección de no europeos]”, the American circuit has communicated. The commissioner, Jay Monahan, has explained that participation in the Saudi league is a “violation” of its regulations, and has assured that this measure will also be taken with players who agree to enroll in any future LIV Golf event, and that At the same time, it will prevent non-members of the American circuit from benefiting from an invitation to attend its competitions. “These players have made their choice for their own financial reasons,” Monahan said in a letter sent to loyal American tour members, “but they cannot demand the same benefits, considerations and opportunities as you. It is a lack of respect. I’m sure our fans and partners – who are surely tired of all this talk about money, money and more money – will continue to be entertained by the world-class competition you put on each and every week. This week’s RBC Canadian Open is a shining example of what you guys have created with the PGA Tour: a star-studded field, a committed sponsor, sold-out tickets and global broadcast distribution. These elements are part of the DNA of the Tour, built by people like Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnie [Arnold Palmer], fostered by Tiger and many others, whose legacies are united. This collective legacy cannot be bought or sold.”
The 17 players sent off by the American circuit are Sergio García, 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 and Lee Westwood. García has commented on the decision: “I have not been suspended because I am not a member of that circuit. What the PGA says I don’t care. It would have been better if the two circuits coexisted, but some have not wanted to. I don’t know if I would have been able to keep the PGA license anyway, because I would have had to play a lot of tournaments. This allows me to play less and see my family more.”
LIV Golf has been slow to react to the first offensive. In another statement, the organization of the new Saudi league fired back as follows: “Today’s announcement from the PGA Tour is vindictive and deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. It is concerning that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play golf, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. Of course, this is not the last word on this subject. The free agent era is just beginning, we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London and beyond.”
There is no longer a truce in a war in which each side plays its tricks to draw blood. LIV Golf pulls economic muscle. In this field he has no rival. Each one of the eight tournaments scheduled between June and October (London, Portland, Bedminster, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok, Jeddah and Miami) keeps a chest of gold coins: 25 million dollars each of the first seven appointments, which are they compete individually and collectively, and 50 million for the end of the party, only for teams. Each individual champion of a tournament takes home a check of four million dollars, more than the best Sunday of the PGA (The Players, 3.6 million) and much more than it means to win a big: 2, 7 for the Masters and the PGA; 2.2 for the US Open; 2.07 for the British Open. In addition, a bonus of 30 million is at stake to be distributed among the podium of the final individual classification. In total, 255 million dollars spread over eight tests of three days each, 24 days of work. Impossible to compete with that offer of more money for fewer hours. A temptation even for stars with many zeros in the account: Johnson has earned 74 million dollars in prize money at the PGA alone, sponsorships aside, and 54 million Sergio García.
The PGA Tour card is not in the form of a bill. The insurgents have already been expelled. But that measure of strength still seems insufficient if the exiled golfers, who have secured eight tournaments in the Saudi league and more money than they would earn on the traditional circuit, can compete in the big four. These are outside the umbrella of the PGA and the European circuit (DP World Tour), as they are governed by four independent bodies: Augusta National Golf Club (the Masters), the PGA of America (the PGA Championship), the USGA (US Open) and Royal and Ancient (British Open). And there the next great battle is going to be fought, one that can be decisive. For now, the big four are spectators of the exchange of shots, and only the USGA announced a few days ago that the qualifiers for the US Open that takes place next week in Boston will keep their place despite the alliance of some with the petrodollars. The decision is understood from the closeness between the London tournament and the US Open. Too little time for such a blunt measure. The question is whether from now on the four Grand Slam events will maintain that position or close their doors to the rebels, as the American and European circuits intend to become strong in their trenches. Without that accolade, the feeling is that LIV Golf will come out the winner of the clash of heads. Despite being expelled from the PGA Tour, more than one golfer will consider filling his pockets with the Saudi millions and at the same time competing for glory in the big ones. It seems like a perfect play, win or win.
Another scenario is the Ryder Cup. Johnson assumed this week that he will not be allowed to compete in the continental duel against Europe. García and the Europeans, meanwhile, hope that the European circuit will allow them to enroll in the next edition, in Rome 2023. That will be another chess game. Golfers who compete in the Ryder do not charge a dollar or euro to participate despite the fact that the competition is a factory to generate money. And that’s what it’s all about, mainly, in this fight that shakes golf. For now, the game is played in the field and in offices, but it will soon reach the courts. The argument of the dissidents is their freedom to play the tournaments that they consider to be the most beneficial for them, and the alleged illegality of a ban. A battalion of lawyers prepares.
The South African Schwartzel, first leader
South African Charl Schwartzel is the first leader of LIV Golf London with 65 shots, five under par. Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson signed -1 and among the Spaniards, Adrian Otaegui was the best with par in the field (70). Sergio García delivered a +1 card, Pablo Larrazábal went to +2 and the amateur David Puig to +4. In the new team modality, the group called Stinger (-9) commands, made up of four South African golfers: Oosthuizen, Du Plessis, Schwartzel and Grace.
The tournament distributes 25 million dollars: 20 for the individual classification (four million for the winner, and descending progressively to 120,000 dollars for the last classified) and five for the three best teams: three million, 1.5 and 500,000 dollars. , respectively, to be distributed among the four components of the group.
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