Saudi-backed LIV Golf league: Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood headline list of golfers wanting to play in London

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Professional golf is at a crossroads, and not everyone knows about it. Rival golf leagues are popping up on every corner like McDonald’s, golfers are rumored to be taking their talents to greener pastures — in terms of money — and it’s tough for the casual golf fan to follow exactly what’s going on.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour) still command the services of best players in the world — all independent contractors — but now those players have options in the form of LIV Golf and, technically, the Premier Golf League.

The volume surrounding LIV Golf has been turned up since the Genesis Invitational when Phil Mickelson’s controversial remarks regarding the Saudi Arabia regime, which is funding the league, were made public. The six-time major champion has been in hot water for the better part of three months for his integral role in the Saudi-backed golf series. In late April, Mickelson’s agent, Steve Loy, confirmed Lefty’s registration in LIV Golf’s first event.

Slowly but surely, other players are beginning to follow in Mickelson’s footsteps. There have been official announcements made by Robert Garrigus, Lee Westwood and Richard Bland along with unofficial claims made by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Jason Kokrak, and Adam Scott. Kevin Na, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, and former World No. 1 Martin Kaymer have all been connected to LIV Golf through various reports.

On Tuesday, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman told Sky Sports that 19 of the top 100 players in the world, six of whom rank inside the top 50, have committed to play in the inaugural event next month in London. While names have yet to officially surface, LIV Golf plans to divulge those to the public next week during the PGA Championship.

Hours after Norman spoke to Sky Sports, it was reported that the PGA Tour had denied all player requests for the first LIV Golf event in London. It was assumed the PGA Tour would grant these waivers, but that will not be the case, as those players who requested a release were notified of their denial on Tuesday.

Those requesting waivers from the DP World Tour have met the same fate. The PGA Tour’s European counterpart followed the news on Tuesday by denying the waivers of its members on Wednesday, according to The Telegraph.

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What is LIV Golf?

Currently run by Norman, LIV Golf is putting together an eight-tournament series starting this summer with some truly outrageous purses ($20 million in individual prizes, plus a $5 million team payout). These payouts are funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which Norman said just put up an additional $2 billion in funding, and this eight-event series is thought to be a forerunner to a full-blown year-long league. The goal is to expand to 10 tournaments in 2023 and 14 tournaments the following two years. The entire thing is already a bit of a mess, especially with distribution not going swimmingly and ticket prices absolutely soaring.

Who could play, and when?

Some names are mentioned above, but who else is even eligible? Typically, the PGA Tour allows players up to three "releases" per season to play on various worldwide tours. The Saudi International in February is an example of an event for which releases are given as it was part of the Asian Tour. A quid pro quo of sorts with the PGA Tour was agreed upon for those who chose to participate. Players who chose to play had to agree to play in a future AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am on the PGA Tour as the event was held the same week.

As mentioned, the PGA Tour is taking a hard stance on the matter and are choosing to treat the Saudi International as a one-off event rather than part of the standard release process. Because of this, it can be assumed no PGA Tour players will be eligible to play in the LIV Golf Series moving forward unless they are willing to go against the PGA Tour's decision -- which may very well happen.

Additionally, Norman will invite several top amateurs to join the 48-player fields and reported there was a grand total of 170 entries to play in the London event.

There are eight total LIV Golf events in 2022, and while the PGA Tour will not grant releases to any of them, it was originally thought the DP World Tour might take a different stance. However, with reports of the DP World Tour's decision to deny all requests coming to light, this means that a battle between leagues might not come on the golf course but rather in a courtroom.

LIV Golf participation list*

*unofficial

Dates: June 9-11
Location: Centurion Club -- London, England

GOLFER PGA TOUR WAIVER? DP WORLD TOUR WAIVER?
Phil Mickelson No No
Lee Westwood No No
Martin Kaymer No No
Sergio Garcia No No
Robert Garrigus No No
Richard Bland No No
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