PGA Tour suspends 17 players competing in inaugural LIV Golf tournament

The PGA Tour on Thursday announced the suspension of any current or future tour members who play for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.

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In a memo to the tour’s membership, Commissioner Jay Monahan said the 17 players competing in the inaugural LIV Golf International Series event that began Thursday at the Centurion Club outside London were suspended. The field includes majors champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, and longtime Ryder Cup players Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” Monahan wrote. “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. You have made a different choice, which is to abide by the Tournament Regulations you agreed to when you accomplished the dream of earning a PGA Tour card and -- more importantly -- to compete as part of the preeminent organization in the world of professional golf.”

The memo added that players who compete in LIV events are ineligible to participate on the PGA Tour or any of the other tours it sanctions, including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

The USGA already has said eligible players can still compete in next week’s U.S. Open, the Golf Channel reported. The PGA Tour does not run the majors.

Monahan said that players who take part in future LIV Golf events will face the same sanctions, ESPN reported. He did not specify how long the suspensions would last, Golf Digest reported.

Monahan also wrote that players who had resigned their Tour membership would be removed from the FedEx Cup Points List beginning next week.

The LIV Golf series features 54-hole events, shotgun starts, no cuts and a team format, ESPN reported.

In a statement, LIV Golf called the punishment “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,” LIV Golf said. “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.”

Poulter said he would appeal the ruling, the Golf Channel reported. Graeme McDowell told the sports outlet that he wanted to “keep the high moral ground” by resigning his tour membership so he could keep litigation to a minimum.

PGA champion Justin Thomas and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy applauded the PGA Tour’s decision.

“I think anybody that’s shocked clearly hasn’t been listening to the message that Jay and everybody’s been putting out,” Thomas said at the Canadian Open. “They took that risk going into it, whether they thought it was a risk or not. I have great belief and great confidence in the PGA Tour and where we’re going and continuing to grow to, and those guys just aren’t going to be a part of it.”

LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, is offering huge purses and undisclosed appearance fees in an effort to lure players, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to Monahan’s memo, the other players suspended included Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Matt Jones, Martin Kaymer, Kevin Na, Andy Ogletree, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihlein.

The first LIV Golf tournament in the U.S. is scheduled to begin June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon, ESPN reported.