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Justin Harding says he is not looking for confrontation by playing in LIV Golf events, explaining it as just “trying to put food on the table”.
DP World Tour members who played in the first LIV Golf event at the Centurion Club near London last month were fined and banned from the Scottish Open, plus the Barbasol and Barracuda Championships.
Harding was one of four players given a late stay of execution - or of suspension at least - when a court ruling on Monday allowed them to play in this week’s Scottish Open while a final ruling on their punishment is made. The South African took full advantage of his late addition to the field at the Renaissance Club by opening with a five-under-par 65.
Harding said: “I’m trying my best to just play golf, put food on the table. I am by no means a fighter, I’m not confrontational so it’s an awkward situation to be in. I always thought it would be a bit tricky but didn’t realise it was going to be blown up as much as this. I thought it might have been handled a bit better by all parties.
“I was a little upset I was told I could not play. I have supported the European Tour for a long period and I’m happy to continue to do so. I’ve not had too many issues (with other players). There’s times when it’s a little uncomfortable but we have to look after ourselves.”
Harding has played both LIV Golf events so far, finishing tied 10th for $516,667 at Centurion Club and earning another $602,500 for his tied 8th finish at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland last week, but he explained he has not signed with the Saudi-backed Series and does not know if and when he’ll play there again.
“I have not signed a contract with LIV so I feel like I am in a slightly different position,” he said. “I’ve played in the ones I’ve got into via an order of merit or world rankings and I have no idea if I’m in the next one. It was an invitational, it was worth a bucketload of money and I felt I could play in it.”
Harding, along with Adrian Otaegui, was added to the head of the Scottish Open field after Monday’s legal reprieve, with Ian Poulter, who has said he is planning on playing on the DP World Tour throughout the summer while the final court ruling is decided, along with LIV Portland winner Branden Grace, added as the final pairing.
The South African took advantage of near perfect conditions on Thursday morning to fire a bogey-free 65 and put himself into contention at the top of the leaderboard.
Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!