The Saudi rebels will be banned from next month’s Scottish Open, but the Ryder Cup reprieve for the European players contracted to the LIV Golf Series looks like stretching on deep into the summer and perhaps beyond.
The eagerly-awaited announcement from the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – is expected on Friday and will see the likes of Ian Poulter and Sergio García banished from the $8 million event taking place on July 7-10, the week before the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews.
For the first time, the links tournament at the Renaissance Club will be co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, after the game’s two traditional powerhouses signed a “strategic alliance” 20 months ago in the response to the LIV threat.
Yet despite the PGA Tour having issued indefinite bans to its members who have signed deals with the breakaway circuit, the DP World Tour will continue to ponder how best to react to those who defied the orders of Keith Pelley after the Tour’s chief executive denied waivers to players who asked to appear in LIV events.
Fines will likely be issued, yet it is thought that the policy going forwards after the Scottish Open will be to take it on a tournament-by-tournament basis. As this is not a Ryder Cup year, Pelley and his board still have time to reach a decision on the biennial dust-up, with concerns growing that the 95-year-old match is under threat because of the LIV bombshell.
The PGA Tour bans essentially mean that US heavyweights such as Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka – who Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed on Tuesday has signed a nine-figure deal with LIV – are ineligible to play for their country in both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
And with Phil Mickelson also on the ever-growing roster nurtured by Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive, it already means that five of the 2018 US Ryder Cup team and three of the 2021 team will, as things stand, be absent from next year’s edition in Rome.
In a letter sent to the entire DP World Tour membership last week, Pelley revealed that he had been inundated with players asking, “why we simply do not follow what the PGA Tour have done and immediately suspend these players”.
“While I understand the frustration, I remind you all that although we work closely with the PGA Tour, we are different organizations and our rules and regulations are therefore different too,” Pelley added.
Rumors have been rife that Pelley has been in secret talks with LIV, with one report in an influential American magazine even stating that the Canadian was seen at the first LIV event. However, the DP World Tour quickly issued a categorical denial.
The picture is further complicated by the fact that DP World – the Tour’s title sponsors with whom Wentworth HQ signed a 10-year deal last November that could be worth up to $1 billion – has such close ties with Saudi Arabia. On Monday, the multi-national port operator – which is ultimately owned by Dubai’s ruling royal family – signed a 30-year agreement with the Saudi Ports Authority and DP World’s ties with the Kingdom run into the 10s of billions.
If DP World feels its position is compromised then other sponsors, such as BMW, might also be against being denied big names at their events. García, world No 24 Louis Oostzhuizen and two-time major champion Martin Kaymer were three of the 10 rebels who played in the LIV opener in Hertfordshire two weeks ago but who were permitted to play in the BMW International Open in Munich, the Tour event that began on Thursday.
However, the Tour transparently tried to highlight the pariah-like status of these pros by putting nine out of the 10 in the same groupings.
There will be no need for any unsubtle maneuverings with the draw in the East Lothians. Entries closed for the Scottish Open on Thursday and it is believed they included García, who resigned his PGA Tour membership before he was banned, and Poulter, the Englishman who has said he will appeal the suspension handed down.
Because of the PGA Tour’s involvement – the Sawgrass body brought in sponsors Genesis – the Scottish sanctions by Wentworth HQ were expected, but is still a highly significant decision from Wentworth HQ, if only because this is the first time the Tour has suspended players for appearing on another Tour.
Will García and Co be missed by anyone other than their fans? Doubtful. The 72-hole event is set to feature all four reigning major champions – including world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and Yorkshireman Matt Fiztaptrcik who won last week’s US Open – as well as eight other members of the world’s top 15. The field will consist of 72 PGA Tour players and 72 from the DP World Tour.