Greg Norman, the head of the big-money LIV Golf Invitational Series, has criticised the PGA Tour for refusing to release its players for the inaugural event in London next month.
England’s Lee Westwood and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson are among the stars to have asked to be released by the PGA Tour, which said it had rejected the applications “in the best interest of the Tour and its players”.
“Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament,” said LIV Golf chief executive and commissioner Norman.
“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.
“But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally.”
The PGA Tour’s stance means it may seek to discipline players who take part in the LIV Golf event in London but it cannot prevent them from playing.
It comes after Norman revealed yesterday that the Saudi-backed LIV Golf has $2bn in funding to expand the series into a 12-team league in 2024.
LIV Golf hopes to attract the world’s leading players with huge prize pots of around $25m per tournament – double that on offer at the game’s men’s majors.
The first season features eight tournaments and is due to begin at London’s Centurion Club on 9 June.
It will also showcase an innovative format featuring three rounds instead of four and shotgun starts, whereby players begin their rounds at different holes in order that all players are on course at the same time.
The second season of the LIV Golf Invitational Series will grow to 10 events in 2023 and expand to its full schedule the following year.
That is when it is due to become a league comprising 12 teams of four players who compete together over a whole season.