When Sports Turn Politics

Yesterday, 17 professional golfers were suspended from PGA Tours events or the Presidents Cup due to their participation in the Liv Golf tournament  at Centurion Club in England.

Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson is among the 17 players that got suspended by the Tour. The punishment applied to all PGA’s members, even if they have already resigned from the Tour like Dustin Johnson.

“In accordance with the PGA TOUR’s Tournament Regulations, the players competing this week without releases are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA TOUR tournament play, including the Presidents Cup. This also applies to all tours sanctioned by the PGA TOUR: the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA TOUR Champions, PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica,” the PGA Tour statement reads.


The Liv Golf tournament kicked off on June 9 and will end on June 11, which overlaps with the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open from June 9-11, 2022.

But one factor that attracts golfers to this tournament instead of the well-known Canadian Open is the lucrative prize money, the most in history of $25 million, including $4 million for the winner. On the other end, the Canadian Tour’s winner will receive $1.57 million from an $8.7 million purse.


Overlapping tournaments occur all the time in every sport. Some said that players were bound to play at PGA’s RBC Canadian Open, but turned to Liv because of the lucrative price, which led to PGA’s suspensions. But what makes this Liv Tournament outstanding is that the event is funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

“They’re obviously throwing so much money at people that it’s very hard to turn down,” Justin Thomas who is competing at Canadian Open said.

“I think it’s the right thing because these guys have broken rules and done things outside of the tournament regulations, and because of that there are going to be consequences, I guess,” Rory McIlroy said.


The punishment could only be because these players have broken PGA’s regulations, but some are looking toward geopolitics given the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia after the U.S. negotiation of the nuclear deal with Iran and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist and author, columnist for The Washington Post.

Amid the energy crisis due to a war between Russia and Ukraine, the U.S. was reportedly seeking to contain surging oil prices by reaching out to Saudi Arabia and  the United Arab Emirates. However, both Middle East nations declined to arrange calls with US president Joe Biden back in March.

“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,“ a US official explained.


LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman said last month during a media event at Centurion that the league would reimburse players who are fined while having legal injunctions ready to go if any are banned by the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf issued an immediate slap back at the PGA Tour by calling it “vindictive” and said this “deepens the divide between the Tour and its members”.

The statement added: “It’s troubling that the Tour, an organisation dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing.


This kind of event had happened earlier after the initiation of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. Russian and Belarusian tennis players were not allowed to compete in Wimbledon, one of the four most anticipated tennis tournaments in the world.

The move raised questions whether athletes should be punished for their country’s action.

The consequence for breaking PGA Tour regulation is one thing but if it really is about politics, maybe things should be changed.

Does it matter who funds the tournament? But every article about the PGA Tour and Liv always has one line that reads the Saudi-funded Liv Golf tournament.