Several of the world’s top golfers have said they have applied for a release from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series
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Justin Thomas has stated that any players planning to leave the PGA Tour for the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series can “just go”.
Greg Norman, the CEO of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, told the BBC on Tuesday that he had entered five of the world’s top 50 players for the upcoming tournament in London, but the PGA Tour statement threatened anyone wanting to play golf in the LIV series with them Forbidden. His announcement comes amid multiple players requesting releases from both the tour and the DP World Tour in order to play.
The inaugural 54-hole, $25 million (£20 million) tournament will be held June 9-11 at the Centurion Club, 30 miles north of London. Norman is expected to announce part of the field next week in the run-up to the US PGA Championship, while the final field is due to be confirmed on May 27.
Big names like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are among the players who have applied to the PGA Tour for permission to play. Thomas, who has confirmed he will remain on the PGA Tour, wants the move to speed up to avoid as much publicity as possible.
“You know, it’s like, look, if you want to go, go,” Thomas told Sky Sports. “I mean, there were a lot of people who were pushing for it and talking about it all the time, and they were people behind the scenes who were like, ‘I’m going, I’m going to do this.’ And how my whole thing is how just go then
“Everyone has the right to do what they want, know what I mean? If I wanted to play this tour, I could play this tour. But I remain loyal to the PGA Tour.”
Total prize money for the eight LIV golf events – five of which are set to take place in the United States – will be in excess of £200m and the seven regular-season tournaments will boast total purses of £20m, the richest of professionals would be golf, with £16m in individual prizes and £4m for the top three teams. The top three players after the seven regular season events will also share a £24m bonus.
The end-of-season Team Matchplay Championship is scheduled for October 27-30 at Trump National Doral in Miami. A further £40m in prize money will be made available.
Due to Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record, players were almost universally convicted for attending the events. However, Lee Westwood defended his decision to apply for a release to star in the invitational series.
“We played the European Tour in Saudi Arabia and I’ve received press releases from the PGA Tour to say I can play in Saudi Arabia, so it hasn’t been a problem for them in years past,” Westwood said. “Formula 1 raced there. Newcastle United is partially owned by people from Saudi Arabia. There was boxing and I think there was also snooker and darts.
“Golf isn’t the first sport to have ties to Saudi Arabia, but it seems to be coming under more scrutiny than any other. Whether you think this is right or not is the opinion of the individual.
“I think Saudi Arabia obviously knows they have problems. I think a lot of countries around the world are struggling and I think they’re trying to improve. They try it through sports, which many places, many countries do.
“I think they’re doing it a lot quicker than some countries have tried and that maybe worries or scares people. People don’t like change, or they like continuity and things that stay the same.”
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Norman was criticized after attending an event to promote his new series, as most of the questions related to allegations of “sports laundry” and the murder of journalist Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Australian simply said: “Everyone admitted it, right?
“From what I’ve read, what you reported has been talked about. Take ownership no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how to correct them in the future.”
Back in February 2021, a US intelligence report revealed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in Khashoggi’s assassination – a claim that has been disputed. Bin Salman is chairman of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which funds many sporting events, including boxing, Formula 1, soccer and now golf.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/golf/justin-thomas-pga-tour-message-26948256 Justin Thomas sends a final message to PGA Tour players who will be quitting for the Saudi League