Saudi-backed golf series battle could turn ugly as ‘PGA and DP World Tour hit back’

Mickelson signs up for controversial LIV Golf Invitational

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The emergence of the Saudi-backed series led by former world No 1 Greg Norman has taken the golfing world by storm over the past year, however it seems the saga is only just beginning. Norman’s battle with the PGA and DP World Tour has once again been reignited after both circuits reportedly declined to release players wanting to play in the breakaway series.

The likes of Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood had already openly revealed their intent to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational opener at Centurion Club next month, however their parent circuits seemed less keen to let them tee it up in London and have instead reportedly opted to decline their applications. In the case of the PGA Tour, it was expected players were to be granted permission to compete in the Saudi-backed league’s inaugural event due to it not taking place in the United States.

However, in a dramatic turn of events on Monday, the circuit’s commissioner Jay Monahan informed all of those who had applied for release that the answer was a categorical no. And it has now also been reported by The Telegraph that the DP World Tour has followed their counterparts and blocked players from being released. When the Saudi League idea was initially flirted with, Tour bosses were quick to warn any rebel players that a move to the breakaway series could well result in lifetime bans on their circuit.

This seemingly didn’t seem to faze Mickelson and co who went ahead with their applications anyway. Maybe they thought Monahan’s initial warnings were empty threats, who knows? However one thing that is for sure – and no doubt took those in question by surprise – is that the commissioner looks to be a man of his word.

In the wake of Monahan’s memo, came Norman’s unsurprising fight back. In an explosive statement The former world No 1 slammed the PGA Tour, and alleged their player-blocking tactic was an unlawful one. He said: “Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament. 

“This is particularly disappointing in light of the Tour’s non-profit status, where its mission is purportedly to promote the common interests of professional tournament golfers. Instead, the Tour is intent on perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market. The Tour’s action is anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive.”

On the cusp it seems as if the Saudi-backed series is facing a huge upbhill battle again. If the sport’s leading tours are reportedly stopping the best players in the world from taking part, then who is going to draw the crowds in and compete for the eye-watering billions on offer? Well, according to Norman somebody will.

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At the end of his fiery statement, the Australian was clear in warning that he and his new circuit will not be going anywhere, vowing to the PGA Tour that they ‘will not be stopped’. With Norman not ready to lie down, things between golf’s most powerful could well be about to get very ugly.

Numerous reports suggest the LIV Series’ next port of call could well be to take legal action. It still remains to be seen whether the battle will get this far. However, one thing that is for sure is that Norman’s war with golf’s purists is far from over.

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