PGA Tour granting a ‘few’ releases for LIV-related Saudi International: Report
According to a report from GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard, the PGA Tour will grant a number of conflicting event and media releases for February’s PIF Saudi International. The Asian Tour event is sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which owns the upstart PGA Tour rival LIV Golf. LIV is set to begin its second season two weeks later in Mexico.
A Tour official confirmed to Hoggard a “few” players asked for and were granted releases to play in the event, which goes up against the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Feb. 2-5. The official declined to specify which players or how many were granted releases.
A similar situation played out for the event last season before LIV Golf made its debut in June. In 2022, 30 PGA Tour members were granted releases to play the event. Many, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson, ended up joining LIV Golf.
No players have been granted similar releases for playing LIV Golf events, resulting in suspensions from the PGA Tour for all LIV defectors.
As part of agreements to play the event, several players reportedly received significant appearance fees, some as high as seven figures for playing the event that has a $5 million purse.
Last year, Tour stars like Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau and even Tom Kim made the trip to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, but neither has indicated if they will play the event again this season.
The tournament announced the return of World No. 3 Cameron Smith and defending champion Harold Varner III to this year’s field earlier this week. Both of the now-LIV golfers will be joined by the top 30 ranked players on the Asian Tour and more players to be announced in the coming weeks.
With the threat of what would become LIV Golf looming, the PGA Tour did not offer last year’s releases unconditionally. Players who had played the Pebble Beach event in the last five years had to commit to playing again this year or in 2024. Those who hadn’t played the event recently agreed to play twice in ’23, ’24 or ’25.
The former DP World Tour event is likely to be the first of a couple of occasions where LIV golfers and PGA Tour players will be in the same field. The Masters already announced it will not ban LIV Golfers from the year’s first major. Litigation is still ongoing regarding LIV golfers’ ability to play DP World Tour events.