‘At some point, burning it doesn’t feel very good’: PGA boss slams LIV Golf 

Seth Waugh last September at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

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The PGA of America’s chief executive officer, on the eve of its PGA Championship, was critical of LIV Golf, saying that players who have left for the Saudi-backed league have “disappeared” and that the tour does not have a survival business model. 

Seth Waugh’s comments — which were told to The Times, and you can read them in full here — come as his organization hosts the PGA Championship this week at Oak Hill Country Club in upstate New York. Eighteen LIV players received exemptions into the event, and 17 are expected to play. (Former winner Martin Kaymer has withdrawn.) 

In speaking of LIV’s pros, Waugh had pointed words. Starting play in June of last year, LIV has attracted multiple players with guaranteed money, and in response, the PGA Tour has changed its tournament structure and offered larger purses. 

“I don’t think division is good for the game,” Waugh told The Times. “Hopefully, it’s good for those individuals that have made whatever decisions they have, but the game has moved on. It’s amplified those who have stayed, and the ones who have left have largely disappeared from the landscape — in terms of an exposure perspective.”

Also in the interview with The Times, Waugh questioned LIV’s format. The tour is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and it’s promoting its player-operated, 12-team structure.  

“Their logic about the team play being something significant that people can get behind I think is flawed,” Waugh told The Times. “I don’t think people really care about it. And I don’t see how it’s a survivable business model.

“They can fund it for as long as they want to, but no matter how much money you have, at some point, burning it doesn’t feel very good. I don’t see they are accomplishing much. It seems logical to me, then, that you would work towards some sort of agreement. I hope the game comes back together in some form.”

Since LIV started play last June, their players and PGA Tour players have appeared together primarily only in the three majors over that span — last year’s U.S. Open and Open Championship, and this year’s Masters. In talking about the Masters, Waugh told The Times that it “set the stage for, frankly, civility. That’s the tone we want — nobody died, right?”

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In the interview with The Times, Waugh, also a member of the Official World Golf Ranking’s governing board, also said he had problems with LIV Golf’s application for its events to receive world-ranking points. The tour currently receives none, and its players have fallen in the standings — which are critical for entry into the major championships. 

“There are certain parts of their structure that can be solved by math, but there may be some pretty fundamental things that are harder,” Waugh told The Times. “There’s the potential conflict with the team aspect and then access — how do you get relegated and promoted?

“They had our latest response weeks ago, and we haven’t heard back. They have made a bad assumption that this will be a quick process. It never has been. Every application has taken a year-plus as far as I’m aware.” 

In response, in a statement to Sports Illustrated — and you can read that story in full here — a spokesman for LIV Golf said this: 

“At the end of April, we received a letter from OWGR which asked for us to further clarify some points that we have already addressed, as well as some additional queries they have pertaining to the financials of our business model. We have asked them to clarify why they need that information and they haven’t responded that email or our queries.

“We have also been categorial that we are willing to make adjustments, but to this point, they have not provided any direction. The last letter we received states they are still in ‘further deliberations’ regarding our application, with no clear path forward.

“We welcome and look forward to their response.’’

Notably, Waugh is expected to talk to reporters on Tuesday at Oak Hill. 

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.