Justin Thomas has spoken out following the PGA’s official refusal to release players for the inaugural event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. Thomas has spoken up and said individual decisions must now be made.
“It’s like if you want to go, go,” Thomas said, speaking ahead of the AT&T Byron Nelson. “There have been plenty of guys that have been advocates of it and have talked about it all the time, and there have been guys behind the scenes that are saying, I’m going, I’m doing this. And my whole thing is: Just go then. Stop being back and forth. Everybody’s entitled to do what they want.”
The PGA Tour confirmed in a memo on Tuesday morning that they would not authorize releases for any players who wished to compete in the first LIV Golf Invitational, which will take place June 9-11 on the outskirts of London. The tournament conflicts with the PGA TOURS RBC Canadian Open, the fourth-oldest national open in golf.
The PGA memo stated that the board had decided to deny player releases “in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”
The CEO of LIV Golf wasn’t slow to respond to the PGA TOUR’s memo releasing a statement of his view that the PGA TOUR was operating an “illegal monopoly” and engaging in actions that were “anti-golfer, anti-fan and anti-competitive.”
Tour members don’t need a PGA release to compete in the first LIV London event. Still, if they choose to do so, they are leaving themselves open to possible disciplinary action from the TOUR, ranging from a fine to a lengthy suspension or ban.
“I would hope it would deter them from going over there,” Thomas said, speaking of the possible repercussions for any golfer who decides to partake.
Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson are three of the biggest names who have publically disclosed that they would be asking for an official PGA Tour release to compete in LIV events. At the point of writing, there is no response from any of them.
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Greg Norman disclosed over various media commitments on Tuesday that six of the top 50, 19 of the top 100 and 36 of the top 150 players in the world had registered to play in the first event. It is currently unclear whether or not the TOUR’s decision will impact that and reduce the strength of the field in London. The DP World Tour has responded to this week’s developments by stating they are reviewing their release requests on a case-by-case basis. They have pointed out that they have a further two weeks to make final decisions as LIV officials aren’t releasing their final field for another two weeks.
It is somewhat surprising to some that the Tour has taken this stance around the LIV tournament. Many believed that the second LIV event held July 1-3 in Oregon would be the first sticking point. Tour guidelines state players cannot be granted releases for other events played in North America. HOWEVER, the PGA Tour has made a considerable power-play by simply moving forward the timetable for any potential litigation.
“Look, if you want to do it, no one’s stopping you,” Will Zalatoris, current Tour’s Player Advisory Council member, said. “But what we have here is pretty good too, considering every week we’re playing for a pretty great purse on a pretty great golf course and considering the benefits that we have off the course on top of that, it’s pretty tough to beat.”
“I thought it was the perfect response from the Tour,” said Zalatoris, went on to say “The Tour is in the best spot it’s ever been, it’s only going to get better, and why would we encourage our players to get releases for those events when essentially we have all these sponsors that are involved with the Tour and are only making it better and better?
“So we’re trying to promote our best product possible, and if you want to be a part of this where it’s getting better and better, then you shouldn’t have it both ways. You have a choice. You really do. You can go if you’d like, but it is what it is.”
No current player in the top 10 in the world rankings has expressed an interest in participating in Greg Norman’s startup league, not publicly anyway. Still, the Australian is insistent that LIV Golf will not only forge ahead, even without any of the top stars signed up to play, but it will thrive.
“We believe LIV is here for a long period of time,” he said.
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