PGA Tour suspends Phil Mickelson and others for involvement in Saudi Arabia-backed LIV event

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PGA Tour suspends Phil Mickelson and others for involvement in Saudi Arabia-backed LIV event

Phil Mickelson plays the 18th during the Pro-Am at Centurion Club, Hertfordshire, ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Steven Paston | PA Pictures | Getty Images

The PGA Tour has suspended 17 golfers, including major championship winners Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, playing Thursday’s Saudi-backed LIV golf event near London. The bans are indefinite.

The players “did not receive the required conflicting event and media rights release — or requested any releases at all,” according to an internal PGA Tour memo. The PGA Tour will also suspend all prospective Tour players participating in LIV events, the memo, dated Thursday, said.

“These players made their choice for their own financial reasons,” the memo said. “But they can’t demand the same benefits, considerations, opportunities and platforms of PGA TOUR membership that you do.”

Mickelson, who has just turned 51, was a key recruiter for LIV Golf, which is funded primarily by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. He hasn’t played in a golf tournament since February. His deal with LIV is said to be worth around $200 million. Johnson’s deal is valued at around $125 million, the New York Post reported.

Mickelson, who has won six major golf championships, is second on the PGA Tour’s career money leader list, behind Tiger Woods, with nearly $95 million. Johnson is third with around $74 million. (Woods turned down a massive offer to join LIV, according to Greg Norman, another former PGA star who serves as CEO of LIV Golf Investments.)

Norman, Mickelson and others have joined the enterprise despite the Saudi government’s past human rights abuses, including their involvement in the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (A Saudi court sentenced several people to prison terms for the murder.) In February, Mickelson told his biographer he thought it was “scary” to connect with the Saudis, but said other factors played a role.

“They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all this, why should I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works,” he said at the time.

Mickelson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC. Johnson said he has no comment.

Regarding whether players will be able to rejoin the Tour at a later date, the PGA Tour memo reads: “Trust that we are ready to address these issues and we will address them in the same manner as we have.” this entire process: by being transparent and respectful of the PGA TOUR regulations that you helped shape.”

LIV Golf called the decision “vindictive” in a statement and said it “widens the rift between the tour and its members”.

“It is disturbing that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the organization preventing golfers from playing. This is certainly not the last word on the subject. The era of free agency is beginning and we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London and beyond,” the organization said.

The LIV event in England is the first of eight tournaments planned. Five of them are destined for the United States, including two on courses run by former President Donald Trump.

Here is the list of players. The asterisks indicate players who have already notified the PGA Tour that they are canceling their membership. You can read the full internal memo here.

  • Sergio Garcia*
  • Talor Gooch
  • Branden Grace*
  • Dustin Johnson*
  • Matthew Jones
  • Martin Kaymer*
  • Graeme McDowell*
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Kevin Na*
  • Andy Ogletree
  • Louis Oosthuizen*
  • Turk Pettit*
  • Ian Poulter
  • Charl Schwarzel*
  • Hudson Swafford
  • Peter Uihlein
  • Lee Westwood*
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