TULSA, Okla. – A year ago, when the lines were first being drawn between the establishment PGA Tour and the upstart LIV Golf concept, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh pledged his association’s loyalty to what he called, the current “golf ecosystem.”
Twelve eventful months later, neither Waugh nor the PGA have changed opinions on LIV Golf, which is now poised to kick off an eight-event invitational series in June.
“We think the structure of – I don't know if it's a league, it's not a league at this point – but the league structure is somewhat flawed,” Waugh said Tuesday at the PGA Championship.
Waugh was also asked if players who choose to play the LIV Golf events – a list that appears to include reigning PGA champion Phil Mickelson, who opted not to defend his title – would still be allowed to play the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, which is a PGA of America property.
“Our bylaws do say that you have to be a recognized member of a recognized tour in order to be a PGA member somewhere, and therefore eligible to play,” Waugh said.
Under the current structure, the LIV Golf Invitational Series would likely not qualify as a “recognized tour,” although the Saudi-backed fund behind the series has made a multi-million-dollar investment in the Asian Tour, which would possibly qualify as recognized.
The bigger question for Waugh, as well as the USGA, R&A and Augusta National, is how golf’s current power structure will respond if more high-profile players like Mickelson defy the PGA Tour’s ruling to deny conflicting-event releases into LIV Golf events.
“I don't know what it'll look like next year. We don't think [LIV Golf] is good for the game and we are supportive of that ecosystem,” he said. “We have our own bylaws that we will follow towards those fields.”