PGA Tour stars have started leaving the tour for LIV Golf. The Saudi-backed golf tournament attracts players because it offers better payments.
A week after the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series took place at Centurion Club, the Aramco Team Series London was also hosted at the same course. The Saudi-backed Aramco Series happens to be part of the Ladies European Tour, which is also a part of the LPGA.
When LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan was asked about what the Saudi-backed golf circuit means for the LPGA, she said that “every day, we are trying to make the LPGA the leader in [women’s] golf and the best tour we make.”
“We have great partners and (the) best players in the world. We’re just doubling down on what we do,” she continued.
What LIV Golf means to LPGA
Some players have also expressed concerns regarding how controversial the new LIV Golf tour was and whether it will affect women’s golf as well. One of these players was Hall of Famer Karrie Webb.
“It’s really hard because you want as many women to have the opportunity to play the game,” the seven-time major winner said on Golf Channel’s Golf Today. “I feel like we should be standing with all women. And considering how women are treated in Saudi Arabia, we shouldn’t be supporting that.”
Additionally, Webb expressed her disappointment regarding her long-time childhood idol, Greg Norman, on social media last month. Norman serves as the CEO of LIV. Earlier, he dismissed Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations as “mistakes” during a press conference last month.
“We are here to promote the game of golf worldwide, not just in (the) men’s sector. It’s across the board,” Norman told BBC of LIV Golf’s interest in women’s golf.
Norman also said last month that the organization approached the LPGA and Ladies European Tour (LET), offering “a substantial investment”, to which both declined. However, the LPGA has since denied the claim.
Meanwhile, The LET already has some connection to Saudi Arabia, having hosted the Aramco Ladies Saudi International since 2020. They also hosted the Aramco Team Series, another Saudi-backed international event. Some members of the LPGA, including world No. 2 Nelly Korda and her sister, Jessica Korda, have completed Team Series events.
At a pre-tournament press conference at Pine Needles, Nelly said she would not resist if someone offered her a free $10 million purse weekly.
“Yeah, I don’t know if there was anybody would say not to that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mexican Gaby Lopez said that even if LIV created something new for women’s golf, she would stay at the LPGA.
“I don’t really play for money. I really play to win championships. It’s more important,” she said while adding that others might see it differently.
On the other hand, Katherine Kirk, one of the over 40 players who regularly compete in LPGA tournaments, said she was concerned about the “entitlement attitude” spreading throughout the tour.
“I hope players understand the consequences of decisions that don’t just affect you, they affect generations to come,” she said when asked about the possibility of departing for LIV Golf.