Several big names in the golf world left the PGA Tour in favor of the LIV Golf Invitational Series on Wednesday morning.
Those who have stuck around, both at this week’s RBC Canadian Open and otherwise, aren’t happy about it.
“It's a bummer,” Justin Thomas said. “I mean, I think a lot of us are, I don't know if annoyed or tired is the right [word]. I mean it's just one of those things.”
Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have both reportedly agreed to join the controversial Saudi Arabian-backed golf league at its first stop in the United States in July. Rickie Fowler is reportedly close to signing with LIV, too.
Those three mark a significant development for LIV Golf, as Dustin Johnson was previously the only golf star still arguably in the prime of his career who bailed on the PGA Tour. Others like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Kevin Na have also left the Tour.
While DeChambeau and Reed aren’t the most liked guys in the golf world by any means, their presence on the LIV Golf series certainly adds a level of credibility to it.
Rory McIlroy: ‘It’s a shame’
Those who have left for the Greg Norman-led golf league, especially Mickelson, have been hit with plenty of criticism ahead of the first event this week in London.
It’s easy to see why. The new series is a blatant, clear example of Saudi Arabia trying to sportswash its crimes and atrocities. The country is reportedly paying these golfers ridiculous amounts of money to play. Both Johnson and Mickelson reportedly were paid more than $100 million to join, and the country apparently offered Tiger Woods close to $1 billion — though he turned them down.
When some were asked about accepting money from Saudi Arabia knowing what the country has done, most players either deflected or shut down. Talor Gooch said “I’m not that smart,” when asked directly about it, and Graeme McDowell insisted he didn’t have “the ability to have that conversation.”
Preparing for the Saudi golf series launch, Graeme McDowell talked about golf being a force for good. I asked how the sovereign wealth funded series will help those who have been killed, oppressed and suffered by Saudi actions.https://t.co/lLxnCCQsqm pic.twitter.com/rtDaetqnG1
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) June 7, 2022
Obviously, the money these players are getting paid is a huge draw. Rory McIlroy said Wednesday from the RBC Canadian Open that money will come with consequences.
“Any decision that you make in your life that's purely for money usually doesn't end up going the right way,” McIlroy said. “Obviously money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world, but if it's purely for money it's not, never seems to, you know, it never seems to go the way you want it to.
”And I've had that before a couple of times in my life and there's other things that are a part of it too. But it's a weird time in professional golf, and I said it a couple weeks ago, we're just going to have to see how this season plays out and if any other guys decide to go another direction than the established tours, I guess, and see what the, I guess see what the consequences are.”
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 8, 2022
It’s unclear what’s going to happen next with the PGA Tour, which has yet to hand out any punishments or respond to several of its members leaving. Johnson, Mickelson and others will still be allowed to play in the U.S. Open this month, but PGA Tour events are almost certainly off the table.
With so much going on now, McIlroy said, golf as a whole has been hurt.
“It's a shame that it's going to fracture the game,” McIlroy said. “I think if anything we need to make this — the professional game is the window shop into golf. If the general public are confused about who is playing where and what tournament's on this week … it just becomes so confusing.
“I think everything needs to try to become more cohesive and I think it was on a pretty good trajectory until this happened.”
While Thomas, like McIlroy, said he doesn’t think Johnson and others are bad people, that doesn’t mean he’s not disappointed by the moves.
“I wish that he and others wouldn't have done it, but that's their decision,” Thomas said. “I've said it all along, it's like guys can do as they wish. If they want to go they can go, if they want to stay they can stay.
”Selfishly, I think and I know that the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world and it's just the decision is theirs and it is what it is, but I just, I wish that it would take away or I wish it wouldn't be taking away from the great storylines and things that are going on on a Tour that's been around for a very long time and is in one of the best places it's ever been. It's just a bummer that those guys won't be a part of it.”