Deadline day for golf’s great schism is nearing, with reports of up to 40 players submitting requests to appear in next month’s opening $AU35 million Saudi-backed rebel event.
After submissions closed late last month to get releases from the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour – formally the European Tour – won’t allow anyone to tee up at the Centurion Club in St Albans if exemptions aren’t filed by May 10.
The deadline day comes as the PGA Tour considers the best way to introduce Phil Mickelson to the tour, with the six-time major winner expected to defend his Wanamaker trophy after becoming golf’s oldest major winner by taking out the PGA Championship.
Mickelson has yet to confirm whether he will take to the tee at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Phil Mickelson might not yet be allowed to defend his PGA Championship. Photo: Getty Images
Even if he does want to play, he still might have to jump through some hoops following his controversial comments about the Saudi-backed golf league earlier in the year.
Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, refused to say the 51-one-year-old was a walk-up starter at the event during an interview with Gary Williams on the ’5 Clubs Conversation’, going as far as saying Mickelson might not be “allowed to” play.
“The idea is, if he does play, and if he’s able to and allowed to … he would certainly have to face the media,” Waugh told the podcast.
“But I hope it’s Monday or Tuesday, and then once the flag goes up, it’s about the golf. … What we’re trying to do is deliver a major championship, not a circus. And so I would hope that he can avoid that, and everybody can avoid that. And we’re talking about golf shots instead of verbal gaffes once we get going.”
Phil Mickelson celebrates with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Waugh has been in constant dialogue with the golf great and said there was still plenty of water to go under the bridge regarding his future in the game.
“I’ve known Phil for 20-something years, and he’s a complicated guy with complicated thoughts and in a complicated situation,” Waugh said.
“And so we’re all trying to figure out what’s best for him and frankly what’s best for the game and we’re going to keep having those conversations.”
He added: “He’s been great for the game for a really long time and I do believe in redemption and I do believe that he can figure this out. I think he’s got to decide what he wants to be. Does he want to be part of the ecosystem or change the ecosystem? And I think he’s kind of caught in between a little bit.”
Westwood requests to play in Saudi event
May’s PGA Championship finishes a little more than a fortnight before the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational starts on June 9.
Up to 40 players across the two major tours are said to have asked for releases, according to The Telegraph.
That number is said to be higher than hoped, with major winners Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen amongst the golfing royalty said to be on the move.Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as well as former world No.1 Martin Kaymer have been heavily linked to the rebel tour.
While the LIV Invitational was said to be hunting for the next Scottie Scheffler by allowing amateurs to collect prize money, The Telegraph reported few youngsters had signed on.
“Most of the players who have applied have no idea if they’ll actually get into the field, as it’s limited to 48,” an insider told The Telegraph.
“We didn’t expect as many rank-and-file pros to ask to play, although with $AU5.7m for first place and $171,000 for last perhaps it should have been expected. There are a few surprise names but they are largely veterans. Very few under-20s which is good.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan is expected to allow players to take to the tee for next month’s tour opener in Hertfordshire.
However, with the second LIV tour event due to take place in Portland, Oregon, it is thought Monahan won’t allow PGA Tour players the chance to play in it given the clash on US soil with the John Deere Classic.
At that point, the lawyers are likely to swoop in with a showdown expected.
Monahan’s counterpart, Keith Pelley, will likely have to make a decision sooner given next month’s LIV opener in England.
“Best Bogey you’ll ever see”
Last month, Pelley warned players they threatened the tour’s future if they took the money and ran.
“Conflicting events, regardless of how attractive they might appear to you personally, potentially compromise our efforts in these areas and could significantly hurt your Tour in both the short and long term,” Pelley wrote to approximately 200 of the DP World Tour’s players
“Please, therefore, continue to bear this bigger picture in mind, particularly considering some of these conflicting events in 2022 are scheduled directly opposite some of our most prestigious ‘heritage events’.”
Yet Westwood’s comments would have done little to ease the fears from the suits across the two tours.
“This is my job,” said Westwood, who has earned more than $AU47m over his 29-year career.
“I do this for money. It’s not the only reason for doing it. But if anybody comes along and gives any of us a chance at a pay rise, then you have to seriously consider it.”