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Why Do LIV Golfers Struggle to Explain Why They Left the PGA Tour?

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BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Last month, Justin Thomas, the world’s seventh-ranked men’s golfer, summed up the emotions of PGA Tour players like himself who’ve rejected the splendid money offers of the rival, Saudi-backed LIV Golf series to stay with the established tour.

Thomas just wants his former tour brethren now aligned with LIV Golf to say they jumped for the cash. “Like, I personally would gain so much more respect for that,” Thomas has said. “However the more the players keep talking and saying that that is for the betterment of the sport, the more agitated and irritated I get about it.”

On Wednesday, Thomas, who made his comments on the “No Laying Up” podcast, would have been repulsed anew by the words of the three latest defectors to the rebel tour who appeared at a news conference for a LIV series event that begins Friday at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Latest Jersey.

“No, money was not an element,” said Charles Howell III, 43, who was once ranked No. 15 worldwide but has slipped to No. 169. Howell insisted as an alternative that he joined the breakaway circuit because golf “is usually a force for change and good.”

Paul Casey, ranked thirty first on this planet, also lamented that the main target of the brand new circuit’s successful recruiting efforts has been the bountiful money paid to leap ship.

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A latest series. The launch of recent Saudi-financed LIV Golf series has resurfaced longstanding questions on athletes’ moral obligations and their desire to compete and earn money. 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.

Why is the brand new series controversial? The event has created sparks inside golf for upending the traditions and strictures of how the sport is played. It has also turn out to be a lightning rod for human rights campaigners who accuse Saudi Arabia of using sports to launder its fame.

Who’s playing it? A lot of the largest names in golf, similar to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away from LIV Golf. But several big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García, joined. Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who was presupposed to lead Europe’s team on the 2023 Ryder Cup, was removed as captain after announcing his move to the series.

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.

“There’s so much more to this,” Casey, 45, said.

LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, has reportedly doled out upfront individual payments between $90 million and $200 million to golf stars including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

But on Wednesday, Howell, Casey and Jason Kokrak, who left the PGA Tour earlier this month, shook their heads when asked directly in the event that they had joined the upstart tour for the financial windfall.

Kokrak said he was “on the fence” about whether to desert the PGA Tour until he tuned into the primary two LIV tournaments this yr. That’s when he watched quite a few golfers who were guaranteed eight-figure appearance fees also on the brink of divvy up a whopping $25 million in prize money, including $120,000 for the last-place finisher, who, like most everyone else, had his major expenses to attend reimbursed. On the LIV event outside Portland, Ore., the journeyman player Pat Perez, who shot 80 in the ultimate round and finished tied for twenty ninth, pocketed $153,000 in individual winnings and one other $750,000 as a part of a team competition.

Kokrak, 37, observed these former comrades who’re assured gobs of cash no matter their scores and concluded on Wednesday that he was drawn to “a fun atmosphere.”

“It invigorates me,” he said.

I bet.

About midway through Wednesday’s meeting with around 40 reporters, Howell, Casey and Kokrak were asked whether or not they were uncomfortable being the general public face of an enterprise that critics have described as Saudi Arabia’s try and use golf to temper the perception of its grim human-rights record. Scores of corporate sponsors have dropped golfers who left the PGA Tour and joined LIV Golf.

“I’ve been to the dominion a few times, and I’ve seen change,” said Casey, who has played within the annual Saudi International golf tournament. “And I’ve talked to the people there.”

Casey went on to elucidate that he had played golf with a 17-year-old girl and her father. “That chance wouldn’t have been there greater than a pair years ago,” he said. “That was such a positive experience for me.”

A follow-up query turned the subject to gay rights in Saudi Arabia. Did the golfers wish to handle that?

Casey, who for the last 20 years has been one of the crucial media-cooperative, thoughtful and garrulous golfers on the world golf tours, answered: “It’s not a subject I do know enough about to discuss.”

Sitting to his right, Kokrak added: “Yeah, I agree with Paul. I don’t know enough concerning the subject to talk on it.”

The responses were paying homage to one other query on the inaugural LIV Golf tour event in June, when players, who reporters noticed tended to have similar replies to queries, were asked in the event that they had received media training or been coached on how you can handle difficult questions.

Perez said: “Zero.”

Brooks Koepka, a four-time major champion, answered testily: “I don’t know.”

On the conclusion of the Wednesday news conference, as Casey was leaving a podium, he was approached by a Latest Jersey-based newspaper reporter who asked concerning the recent protests from families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks who’ve criticized holding the Saudi-backed event at Trump’s golf course, especially because it is situated inside 50 miles of where the World Trade Center once stood.

“My heart goes out to all of those that suffered a loss and been impacted by 9/11; I don’t have words to explain the pain and sadness behind that,” Casey said earnestly.

An aide for LIV Golf beckoned.

“I’ve got to do a photograph shoot,” Casey said.

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