'It's been an unfortunate week': PGA Tour chief defends decision to suspend LIV golfers

Golf's lead circuit has banned 17 players who signed up for new series - and anyone who follows suit

Charles Schwartzel of South Africa holds up the trophy after winning the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club in St Albans, England. AP Photo
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PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has defended the punishment meted out to players who have switched to the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The battle lines within professional golf have been drawn even deeper this past week, with the PGA Tour suspending 17 players who have signed up for the new Saudi Arabia-backed series. Those include six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time major winner Dustin Johnson and 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau. Those players are now ineligible to compete in PGA Tour events.

The inaugural LIV event took place at Centurion Club outside London, where 2015 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel triumphed on Saturday. The series, which features 54-hole events and offers $25 million prize funds for each of its eight tournaments, has shaken up the sport.

Speaking in a televised interview during Sunday's final round at the Canadian Open, Monahan said: "It's been an unfortunate week that was created by some unfortunate decisions, those decisions being players choosing to violate our tournament regulations.

"It's my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans. And that's exactly what I did. And I don't think it was a surprise to anybody, given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation."

On Sunday, Rory McIlroy prevailed in a thrilling conclusion to the Canadian Open, with the 2019 champion firing a final-round 62 to finish ahead of Tony Finau and recent US PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas.

Speaking to a greenside reporter immediately following the victory, McIlroy seemed to double down on his continued support for the PGA Tour. In claiming a 21st win on golf's lead circuit, the Northern Irishman moved one ahead of LIV CEO Greg Norman.

"This is a day I will remember for a long, long time, 21st PGA Tour win, one more than someone else, that gave me a little bit of extra incentive today," McIlroy said.

LIV's next event will be staged in the United States, in Portland, Oregon from June 30-July 2. Organisers announced at the weekend that they had added to their roster DeChambeau, former Masters winner Patrick Reed and Pat Perez.

Monahan was asked on Sunday why players couldn't compete on both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf circuit, saying: "Why do they need us so badly?

"Because those players have chosen to sign multi-year lucrative contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players over and over again. You look at that versus what we see here today and that's why they need us so badly. You've got true, pure competition.

The best players in the world are here at the RBC Canadian Open, with millions of fans watching, and in this game, it's true and pure competition that creates the profile in the presence of the world's greatest players.

"And that's why they need us. That's what we do. But we're not going to allow players to free ride off of our loyal members, the best players in the world."

Updated: June 13, 2022, 8:21 AM