By Andrew Wright published
The PGA Tour has granted conflicting-event releases to 30 of its members who petitioned to play in the controversial Saudi International next year.
Among those who sought permission were Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele, with the decision revealed in a memo sent out on Monday.
However, there is a catch. The newly instated Asian Tour event runs from February 3-6, 2022, and coincides with one of the most popular and sponsor-heavy stops on the PGA Tour - the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
So, as part of the agreement, anyone who has played in the AT&T at least once in the past five years must commit to it at least once in the next two years (2023 and ‘24), while those who have never featured must tee it up on the California coastline course at least twice between 2023 and 2025. Poor souls.
At the end of November, Saudi Golf released a list of players confirmed for the 2022 staging, which also included the likes of Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood and Louis Oosthuizen.
#BREAKING @Golf_Saudi has released list of players confirmed for the 2022 @SaudiIntlGolf, including @PhilMickelson, @DJohnsonPGA, @b_dechambeau, @TommyFleetwood1 and @IanJamesPoulter… pic.twitter.com/M2jzKJAWvvNovember 29, 2021
It had been speculated that tour chief Jay Monahan would deny any release requests with the threat of the Saudi breakaway league still looming large. PGA Tour rules state that if a player is eligible for that week’s PGA Tour event, they are prohibited from teeing it up in another tournament. However, there are exceptions for events on a foreign member's “home circuit”, as well as ones for majors, the Olympics and team events such as the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
“Players who hit the 15-event minimum are typically eligible for three conflicting-event releases per season, but the regulations also fully support denial of such requests,” a statement on the PGA Tour website read. The tour also stressed this decision was not to be viewed as “precedent setting”.
Another interesting point of note is that there is a requirement for conflicting-event applications to be submitted 45 days in advance of the first round. Coincidentally, the memo was communicated to players 45 days out from the commencement of the 2022 Saudi International. Any player who breaks the conditions of their release will also face disciplinary action.
Due to the country’s human rights record, the Saudi International has been marred in controversy since it landed on the 2019 European Tour schedule. And that controversy has only intensified in the intermittent years, with the Saudi government investing $200 million into the Asian Tour as part of a plan to entice players away from the PGA and DP World Tours.
Greg Norman was recently announced as the CEO of the prospective team-style Super Golf League, which would see anyone who signs up rewarded by way of a sizeable appearance fee, rumoured to be in the region of $50m.
While it's unlikely any want-away players eager to join the new big-money venture would be treated as leniently, the PGA Tour will be hoping the latest round of political gesturing serves to keep its biggest stars happy for the time being.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform covering football, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1, but he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing. He now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a handicap of 1. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
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