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PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan pounced on LIV Golf on Wednesday, calling the fledgling league an “irrational threat” to the sport.
“If this is an arms race and the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” Monahan told reporters Tuesday. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars to buy the game of golf.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not. It’s an irrational threat that doesn’t care about ROI or the true growth of the game.”
LIV Golf, which is financially backed by the government of Saudi Arabia, has landed several top PGA stars in recent weeks. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were among the first defectors to the new league, and stars like Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed soon followed.
Each of the players who left the PGA Tour for LIV received significant signing bonuses, some reportedly in the nine figures. The dollar numbers have at times dwarfed the player’s previous career earnings on the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf is also offering $25 million for each of its eight events this season.
While some in the golfing world have seen this as a course correction in players’ favour, Monahan sees it differently.
“Right now, no organization owns or dominates the game of golf,” Monahan said. “Instead, the various entities, whether it’s Augusta National or the USGA or the LPGA or the PGA Tour or the PGA of America, work together to meet our own respective priorities but in the best interest of the game as a whole.
“But when someone tries to buy the sport, dismantle the institutions intrinsically invested in its growth, and focus only on one personal priority, that partnership evaporates and instead we end up with one person, one entity, the endless amounts of money used to steer employees, not members or partners, toward their personal goal, which may or may not change tomorrow or the day after. I doubt that’s the vision any of us have for the game.”
LIV Golf has also been accused of “sportswashing” human rights atrocities committed by the Saudi Arabian government, most notably its involvement in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Golfers who have left the PGA for LIV have largely deflected questions on the subject.