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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Breakaway golf circuit looms large over RBC Canadian Open as players change sides

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Toronto (Canada), June 9 (Ajit Weekly News) PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas has said that he was “disappointed” in Dustin Johnson and others who had jumped to the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series “but that was their decision.”

Speaking ahead of the start of Thursday’s RBC Canadian Open, Thomas, the World No. 6, weighed into the controversy surrounding the advent of the breakaway golf series that starts this week at the Centurion Club in England.

“People are entitled to choose as they wish. I don’t dislike DJ (Dustin Johnson) now. I don’t think he’s a bad dude. I’m not going to treat him any differently. It’s like he’s entitled to choose as he wishes,” said Thomas at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto, on Wednesday.

“Like I said, it doesn’t make him a bad person. Now I’m disappointed. I wish that he and others wouldn’t have done it, but that’s their decision. I’ve said it all along, it’s like guys can do as they wish. If they want to go they can go; if they want to stay they can stay.”

To date, Johnson, the two-time Major winner, fellow American Kevin Na, Spaniard Sergio Garcia, and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, among others, have resigned their PGA Tour memberships to join the new circuit that is offering huge prize purses and appearance fees, reports Xinhua.

Phil Mickelson, the six-time Major winner, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ryder Cup stalwart Ian Poulter are among the other notables who have committed to LIV. PGA Tour regulars Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler are also reportedly set to join the circuit when it plays its first event in America on June 30 in Portland, Oregon.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has pledged 400 million U.S. dollars to get the tour started. The inaugural season will feature eight tournaments and 255 million dollars in total prize money. Each tournament is a no-cut field with a 4 million dollar prize purse on offer to the winner.

‘LIV’ stands for the Roman numeral 54, the number of holes that will be played at each tournament.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan indicated last month to players on his tour that they will have to pick a side. Either they stick with the PGA Tour or join the fledging LIV circuit. By playing in both tours “members who violate the tournament regulations are subject to disciplinary action”.

While it is unclear what actions Monahan may take against those who violate the ban, LIV players will likely be able to play in the four majors which are run separately from the Tour.

“Selfishly, I think, and I know, that the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world. It’s just the decision is theirs and it is what it is,” said Thomas who won his second PGA Championship last month in a playoff.

“I wish it wouldn’t be taking away from the great storylines and things that are going on on a tour that’s been around for a very long time and is in one of the best places it’s ever been. It’s just a bummer that those guys won’t be a part of it.”

At this week’s RBC Canadian Open Thomas is up against a top field that includes World No. 1 and Masters winner Scottie Scheffler, Australian Cameron Smith, the World No. 4, and Sam Burns, the World No. 9. The prize purse is 8.7 million dollars with 1.368 million going to the winner.

Rory McIlroy, the four-time Major winner, is also back to defend the title he won in Hamilton, Ontario, in 2019. For the past two years, the tournament has been canceled due to the pandemic.

The Ulsterman, a “self-confessed golf nerd, historian, traditionalist”, said he was happy to be in Canada defending his title at a tournament that dates back to 1904.

“You look at the Canadian Open trophy and you look at the names that are on that. You’re putting your name in history by winning these national championships and that’s, honestly, it’s something that money can’t buy or it’s something that money can’t give you,” said McIlroy who has pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour.

“I think my stance on it (LIV) has been pretty clear from the start. It’s not something that I want to participate in. I certainly understand the guys that have gone. I understand what their goals and their ambitions are in their life. I’m not, certainly not knocking anyone for going. It’s their life, it’s their decision, they can live it the way they want to.”

–Ajit Weekly News

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