BROOKLINE, Mass. — Since last week, when multiple top golfers exposed a schism in the lads’s skilled game by spurning the established PGA Tour to affix the upstart, Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, the game has been waiting for its power brokers to weigh in.
The most important prizes in golf, the events that shape legacies, generate top sponsorship dollars and are marked on every player’s calendar, are the most important championships: the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the P.G.A. Championship. But none of those 4 events are governed by an expert tour, be it old or latest. They’re overseen by 4 distinct entities sometimes described because the 4 families of golf (insert organized crime joke here).
These organizations at the moment are the linchpins within the battle over the long run of men’s pro golf. When the PGA Tour retaliated last week by suspending 17 players who had aligned with LIV Golf, the looming query was whether the most important championships’ chieftains from Augusta National Golf Club (the Masters), america Golf Association (the U.S. Open), the R&A (the British Open) and the PGA of America (the P.G.A. Championship) would select a side. Since they’ve long been allied with the recognized tours in america and Europe, would they snub the choice LIV Golf Invitational series and exclude its players from their events?
On Wednesday, there was a partial answer and it couldn’t have comforted renowned players like Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, who’ve insisted they will still play the most important tournaments while accepting the lots of of tens of millions of dollars being doled out by LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the Private Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.
While all LIV Golf-affiliated players who had already qualified for this week’s U.S. Open on the Country Club outside Boston have been welcomed, Mike Whan, the usG.A. chief executive, said on Wednesday that his organization would consider ways that might make it harder for LIV Golf players to compete within the event in the long run.
Whan was asked if he could see a situation through which the LIV Golf players would find it “harder and harder” to get into the U.S. Open.
“Yes,” he answered.
Asked to elaborate, Whan said: “Could I foresee a day? Yeah, I could foresee a day.”
Whan cautioned that the usG.A. wouldn’t act rashly but would unquestionably “re-evaluate” its qualifying criteria.
“The query was, could you envision a day where it could be harder for some folks doing various things to get right into a U.S. Open?” he said. “I could.”
There have been other statements from Whan that didn’t sound like endorsements of the LIV Golf Invitational series, which held its inaugural tournament last weekend outside London and still lacks the support of the vast majority of top, and rank-and-file, PGA Tour players. However the breakaway circuit has surprisingly lured some leading players, most of whom had professed their loyalty to the United States-based PGA Tour just weeks, or days, earlier.
“I’m saddened by what’s happening within the skilled game,” Whan said. He continued: “I’ve heard that this is nice for the sport. Not less than from my outside view straight away, it looks prefer it’s good for a couple of folks playing the sport, but I’m fighting how this is nice for the sport.”
Whan, who was the longtime commissioner of the L.P.G.A. until he took over the usG.A. last summer, also emphasized that it was essential for every of golf’s leaders to work cohesively when assessing what role LIV Golf would play.
“We have now to see what this becomes — if that is an exhibition or tour?” he said. “I’ve said this repeatedly, I’ve seen numerous things start in the sport, possibly nothing with this amount of noise or this amount of funding behind it, but I’ve also seen numerous those things not with be us a pair years later.
“One event doesn’t change the best way I believe in regards to the way forward for the game.”
And significantly, when Whan was asked if suspensions imposed by the PGA Tour would get his attention when the usG.A. was reassessing its criteria for future U.S. Opens, Whan swiftly replied: “They already did. It got our attention for this championship.”
Whan’s comments come a month after Seth Waugh, the P.G.A. of America chief executive, stood firmly behind the PGA Tour, calling it an element of what he known as golf’s ecosystem.
“Our bylaws do say that you could have to be a recognized member of a recognized tour so as to be a PGA member somewhere, and subsequently eligible to play,” Waugh said, speaking of the P.G.A. Championship.
A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series
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A latest series. The brand new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series held its first event in June. But what’s it? Who’s playing it? What’s all of the hubbub, and how will you watch it? Here’s what to know:
What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the best level of professional golf for nearly a century.
Who’s playing it? The 48 players within the initial LIV Golf event weren’t exactly a who’s who of golf, and plenty of of the most important names in the game, reminiscent of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away. But there have been big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García.
What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.
How can I watch the brand new tour? Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in america and will likely be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. In america, this week’s tournament will likely be available via live streams on LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.
Addressing the LIV Golf tour, Waugh said: “I don’t know if it’s a league, it’s not a league at this point — however the league structure is somewhat flawed.”
So where does that leave the 2 other major championships and their likely responses to the LIV Golf tour, which can play five events in america this yr starting on June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, outside Portland, Ore.
As with the U.S. Open this week, the leaders of the British Open may find it difficult to bar players who’ve already qualified for this yr’s event, which begins July 14 in St. Andrews, Scotland, and would come with Mickelson and Johnson. Meaning the following, and potentially first, major championship forced to wade into the PGA Tour-LIV Golf confrontation will likely be the Masters.
In April, Augusta National’s chairman, Fred Ridley, was asked if players joining a rival tour to the PGA Tour can be invited to play within the Masters. Ridley said: “Our mission is all the time to act in the very best interests of the sport in whatever form that will take. I believe that golf’s in a great place straight away.”
Through the years, Augusta National has honored exceedingly traditional values and been reluctant to alter. And Ridley little question heard what Whan needed to say Wednesday, if the 2 haven’t already discussed the problem on the phone.
On the eve of the 122nd U.S. Open, will Whan’s statements slow the exodus of players from the PGA Tour, especially after the British Open has been played?
It’s hard to say. It’s going to proceed to be especially attractive for the demographic that has been probably the most receptive to LIV Golf’s monetary enticements: aging players past their primes.
But when there was a message in Whan’s responses to the 13 questions he faced on Wednesday about LIV Golf’s introduction, or intrusion, to his sport, it was that he doesn’t view it as business as usual. He might have been noncommittal in regards to the latest tour and bided his time. Importantly, he as a substitute suggested that it was not good for golf.
That was a telling statement from probably the most powerful bosses of golf’s major championship families.