Kevin Na resigns from Tour for Saudi league, says he would face ‘legal action’
Kevin Na, in a 242-word letter posted Saturday to his social media accounts, resigned from the PGA Tour, citing “disciplinary proceedings and legal action,” after he was listed to play in the first event for the Saudi-funded LIV Invitational Series.
Na is believed to be the first player among those playing in the first LIV tournament to leave the Tour completely. Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Talor Gooch are among other Tour players listed to play in the event, set for next week at the Centurion Club in London.
“For 19 years, I’ve played on the PGA Tour and I have loved every minute of it,” Na wrote. “I appreciate the platform the Tour has provided me to play the game that I love and for the opportunities that have come with it. Recent developments in the professional golf world have given me a chance to reconsider my options. I would like the freedom to play wherever I want and exercising my right as a free agent gives me that opportunity. However, to remain a PGA Tour player, I must give up the right to make these choices about my career. If I exercise my right to choose where and when I play golf, then I cannot remain a PGA Tour player without facing disciplinary proceedings and legal action from the PGA Tour.
“I am sad to share that I have chosen to resign from the PGA Tour. This has not been an easy decision and not one I take lightly. I hope the current policies change and I’ll be able to play on the PGA Tour again.”
The “disciplinary proceedings and legal action” are not completely known at this point, though the discussion has stretched back as far as the Saudi series began to take shape and would pose a threat to the Tour. (GOLF’s Josh Sens wrote a detailed legal explanation here.) In May, the Tour denied permission for its players to compete in the first event — with LIV CEO Greg Norman calling the Tour an “illegal monopoly” as well as “anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive” — and this week, after the field was announced, the Tour said in a statement that read: “As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations. Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.”
The first LIV event will compete with next week’s Canadian Open. The following week is the U.S. Open, of which Na is qualified for, and when reached by GOLF.com via email, a USGA spokesperson referred to a previous statement upon learning of Na’s announcement.
“We pride ourselves in being the most open championship in the world, with roughly half our field securing their position via local/regional qualifiers, however we reserve the right, as we always have, to review any competitor’s situation on a case-by-case basis,” the statement said.
Na is also qualified for the Open Championship. Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the R&A, when asked by GOLF’s Josh Berhow about the list for LIV’s first event, said “we haven’t commented on it and don’t plan to as it stands.”
Throughout the week, other players in the LIV event have discussed their decisions. In an interview with National Club Golfer, Graeme McDowell said “It’s a difficult decision as a player when there’s so many unknowns. We don’t know what the reaction is going to be.”
“The perceived consequences are definitely concerning,” McDowell also said. “But as players, we just ask ourselves the question, if we do get banned from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, for example, is that good for the sport of golf?
“I believe it’s not good for the game, and I really feel what the guys at LIV have done is they’ve tried to create a schedule, which especially fits around the PGA Tour.
“It’s designed to co-exist with the other tours in the world, and let’s just hope that it all works out. The unknowns are a little scary, but I’m sure it’s weighed into the decision of every player that’s decided to take the leap. And we just hope that the right decision will be made.”
At the end of Na’s note, he wrote “to keep an eye out for LIV Golf.”
“It is an exciting new product and I hope you will enjoy the buzz it brings to golf,” he said. “I am thrilled to begin the next chapter in my career, starting next week at the inaugural LIV Invitational series event in London. I hope you will continue to support me.”