According to Golfweek, the PGA Tour has given permission to 30 of its members, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau, to compete in the divisive Saudi International.
However, there are conditions associated to the permission.
The decision was announced in a memo emailed to the Tour’s complete membership on Monday afternoon, which Golfweek received a copy of. Players who applied for permission to compete in Saudi Arabia got supplementary memoranda describing the particular terms of their releases for the event, which will take place February 3-6, 2022, opposite the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. To compete in clashing events, tour participants must first seek a waiver.
The contents of the memoranda were confirmed by a PGA Tour official, who declined to name the 30 players who have been given releases. The Saudi International announced a list of commitments last month that includes Mickelson, DeChambeau, and defending winner Johnson. Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, and Bubba Watson were also mentioned.
The Saudi International is the newest battleground in a feud between the PGA Tour and the Saudis, who have been attempting to build their own Super Golf League by luring golf’s greatest names with enormous guaranteed pay days. The concept of the Super League has been extensively condemned as an attempt by the Saudi monarchy to’sportswash’ their human rights violations. The PGA Tour said in July that it would not allow members to compete in the tournament.
Tyler Dennis, the Tour’s chief of operations, signed the memo issued to the membership. It reaffirms the official PGA Tour Player Handbook’s guidelines regarding contradictory event disclosures. Commissioner Jay Monahan can issue or deny waivers based on the Tour’s best interests, and can also attach conditions to waivers. The document lays out the terms under which members competing in Saudi Arabia would be judged.
Any player who has participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event at least once in the previous five years must commit to participating at least once in the next two years (2023 and 2024). Players who have not competed at Pebble Beach in the previous five years must compete twice in the next three years until 2025. According to a source acquainted with the identities of the 30 players who requested for waivers, 19 of them will be obliged to play only once at the AT&T, while the remaining 11 would be required to play twice.
Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief events and competitions officer, was contacted by Golfweek for comment on the decision. “While we certainly have grounds under Tour regulations created by and for the players to deny conflicting event releases, we have decided in this instance to allow a group of Tour players to play in a single sanctioned tournament outside of North America on a recognized Tour, with conditions attached that will contribute to the success of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in future years,” Pazder responded.
Players who fail to fulfill their waiver duties will be subject to disciplinary action.
Application for conflicting event releases must be made at least 45 days before the first round of the tournament in question, according to the memo distributed to Tour members late Monday afternoon. The Saudi International starts on February 3rd, exactly 45 days after the memo was sent.
The 30 waivers requested for the 2022 Saudi International are up from 23 in 2021, implying a purposeful Saudi plan of inviting so many players that the PGA Tour would be forced to deny waivers to protect the quality of the field at the AT&T tournament. If permission was denied, the Saudis may claim that the PGA Tour was not operating in the best interests of members by limiting them earning opportunities, further inflaming anger among the elite players the Super Golf League has been hoping to recruit.
Lower-profile players invited to compete in King Abdullah Economic City have been offered appearance fees of roughly $400,000, according to a person familiar with the issue, with mid-tier players receiving between $500,000 and $750,000. Seven-figure offers are made to high-profile celebrities. Private jet charters to and from Saudi Arabia are also available.
Not every player who submitted an application for a conflicting event release will be able to compete in Saudi Arabia. The Asian Tour, which supervises the event and in which the Saudi government has spent $200 million, is anticipated to reveal an updated list of contestants.
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