Phil Mickelson and co defended for Saudi tour switch – ‘They need the money’

PGA Tour suspends players participating in LIV Golf series

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Golf icon Gary Player has defended the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau for turning their backs on the PGA Tour in favour of the lucrative and controversial LIV Golf series. The new rival tour, which is fronted by former World No. 1 Greg Norman, is backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund and is perceived by many to be the latest example of sportswashing to hit the sporting world.

The controversial LIV Golf series made its anticipated debut at The Centurion Club in St Albans over the weekend, with the likes of Mickelson, Johnson and Sergio Garcia headlining a rather strange field. Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, secured a one-stroke victory and a £3.86 million payout with a one-stroke victory. 

The Saudi-backed series’ first event is the most lucrative golf tournament in history. Its $25million (£20million) prize dwarfs the £7million on offer at the Canadian Open, which also got underway on Thursday. While many fans around the world have criticised the new project and the players who have opted to go, nine-time major champion Player believes the players shouldn’t be so harshly criticised – and people need to quiet down. 

When asked by Sky Sports whether LIV Golf players should be allowed to play in the majors, Player said: “I don’t know what the majors are going to do, but you can’t have your cake and eat it. You’ve got to choose one tour or the other. 

“If they so desire to play the LIV tour, which is their choice and they have the freedom to choose. Whether there will be lawsuits, I don’t know; I’m not in a position to say that.

“I’d like the people that are playing the tour just to be open and say, ‘Look, I’m playing this tour just so I can make some money, I have a family’. There’s no disgrace about that.

“The LIV tour does not have a points system that will enable you to keep playing the tours, so I don’t know what will happen in majors if you’re not playing in majors or not playing the regular tour where you’re going to get your points to play in the majors. It’s far more complicated than people are making it out to be and a lot of people are giving a lot of opinions, and know a hell of a lot about nothing!”

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Player insisted the fighting and criticism exchanged between the two rival tours is ‘unnecessary’, while continuing to defend those that have defected to the LIV series. The 86-year-old insists such moves are motivated by money, which makes sense and is understandable as they each have families and therefore ‘need the money’.

“The players who are playing there now need the money, and they’ve got families and I don’t blame them for playing there,” Player added. “And there’s not a lot of them that can win on the regular Tour, so they’re wisely taking the money. 

“The PGA Tour is the strong tour, so there is a place for in the sun for both tours. I hope they settle everything in an amicable way and we can go from strength to strength because golf is a passport to the world; it’s the only sport that enables you hypothetically at my age to beat your age 3000 times in a row and still compete.”

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