Saudi golf league: Here’s where top-ranked pros stand on the controversial breakaway tour

The rumored Saudi-backed golf super league is gaining traction, but where do the top pros in the world stand on the matter?

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There may be no more polarizing topics in golf these days than those surrounding rumors of the controversial Saudi-backed super league. While details on the league are sparse, information about it has steadily trickled out over the past few years giving us a rough outline of what it may look like.

Greg Norman appears to be the face of the organization, LIV Golf Investments, behind the would-be league, and the group has been pouring cash into the Asian Tour as part their push on to the global golf stage. We don’t yet know where this tour may roam, or which courses might serve as hosts, but one thing is certain — the league is looking to fill out its fields with the top talent in the world.

Dustin Johnson in the first round of the Saudi International on Thursday.
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No players have publicly announced that they have signed on to be a part of the league, but according to Phil Mickelson, “pretty much every player in the top 100 in the world has been contacted.”

We don’t know for certain what has come of these closed-door negotiations, but we have accumulated commentary from many top pros in recent months and years. As a result, we can get a sense for where they stand on the Super League-in-the-making.

Here’s what the top pros in the world are saying about the league and their level of interest in getting on board.

Seemingly interested

Phil Mickelson (world rank: 38)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2020, 2021, 2022.

What he’s said: “I don’t know where things are headed, but I know I will be criticized … That’s not my concern. All that would do is dumb down one of the most intricate issues in sports. It would be so naive to not factor in all of the complexities. The media rights are but a small fraction of everything else. And it is the Tour’s obnoxious greed that has really opened the door for opportunities elsewhere.”

Is he interested? Mickelson went scorched-earth on the PGA Tour as he aired his grievances to Golf Digest in an exclusive interview in early February. It seems that after three-plus decades on Tour, he’s open to the possibility of teeing it up elsewhere.

Lee Westwood (world rank: 41)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022.

What he’s said: “I don’t know whether I want to answer questions on that. I’ve signed an NDA.”

Is he interested? Westwood’s NDA comment suggests that he’s in negotiations with the new league. He’s also said in the past that singing on for a multi-million dollar guarantee would be an easy decision. “If somebody stood here and offered me 50 million quid to play golf when I’m 48, it’s a no-brainer.” Could he be the first defector?

Bryson DeChambeau (world rank: 9)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2019, 2021, 2022.

What he’s said: “I’m not a politician. I’m a golfer, and I want to play where the best golfers in the world are going to play.”

Is he interested? When considering DeChambeau’s comments above, and his consistent trips to the Middle East to compete in the Saudi International, it seems as though he’s seriously interested in a potential super league. The Daily Mail also reported that DeChambeau was offered over £100M (~$114M) to be the face of the league. (DeChambeau denied the report in a one-word Instagram reply: “wrong.”) That kind of cash could be tough to turn down.

Adam Scott (world rank: 46)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I think the schedule they’re proposing is very appealing to probably most golfers, I would think. You know, depending what your goals are in golf, I think the schedule is very appealing. From that side of things, I would consider doing that, for sure. From a lifestyle side of things, yes.”

Is he interested? Scott’s comments on his affinity for the lifestyle flexibility the breakaway tour could provide makes it seem like he’s leaning toward defecting, but his answer when asked if he’d been in contact with the Saudis was the most telling. “Like everyone else, we’re sworn to secrecy.” That language makes it sound as though the former Masters champ has signed an NDA.

Joaquin Niemann (world rank: 32)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2022.

What he’s said: “I don’t really want to say anything, any comment about it. I just don’t want to say anything.”

Is he interested? We’re beginning to see a trend among Tour stars where anti-Saudi players speak out, and (seemingly) pro-Saudi players either tip toe around the subject, or outright refuse to answer. Niemann falls in the latter.

Seemingly on the fence

Patrick Cantlay (world rank: 4)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I think with the amount of money they’re talking about it’s always very tempting. I think it’s tempting for everybody. And to deny that would be, you know, maybe not true … I think it’s a complicated thing and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I think there’s two sides to every coin and if people want to be more interested in golf and want to put more money into golf, I think that’s a good thing … It’s tricky because it’s not always in the fashion that people would have expected or wanted, and I would say at this point I’m definitely a curious observer as to see what happens and who decides to play.”

Is he interested? While Cantlay chose to play in Pebble Beach over King Abdullah Economic City this week, he was candid with his comments about the potential of a super league. Money (and competition) could, it seems, convince him to join the new league.

Viktor Hovland (world rank: 3)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2021.

What he’s said: “If I had my wish, I would just keep playing the PGA Tour … I just want to play against the best players in the world. Everyone goes over there, kind of leaves me with no choice, but I would like to play the PGA.”

Is he interested? Hovland’s comments make it clear he wants to continue playing the PGA Tour, but only so long as the best players in the world continue as well. If enough dominoes fall, the young Norwegian could follow suit.

Cameron Smith (world rank: 11)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2022.

What he’s said: “To be honest, I haven’t thought a lot about it. I’ve got guys around me that think about that stuff. I’m just out here trying to play the best I can. We’ll worry about that stuff when it comes around.”

Is he interested? Smith is making his debut in the Saudi International this week, but in his media availability, he dodged questions about the super league. The Aussie seems to be undecided as it stands currently.

Seemingly not interested (for now)

Jon Rahm (world rank: 1)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I am officially declaring, let’s say, my affiliation to the PGA Tour. I’m a PAC member and I have a lot of belief in Jay Monahan and the product that they’re going to give us in the future. There has been a lot of talk and speculation on the Saudi League. It’s just not something I believe is the best for me and my future in golf, and I think the best legacy I can accomplish will be with the PGA Tour.

Is he interested? Rahm stated in 2020 he had little interest in the rumored league, and at the 2022 Genesis Invitational, he took it a step further pledging his unwavering allegiance to the PGA Tour.

Collin Morikawa (world rank: 2)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “My entire life I’ve thought about the PGA Tour, I’ve thought about playing against Tiger, beating his records, whatever, something that might not even be breakable, but I’ve never had another thought of what’s out there, right? I’ve never thought about anything else, it’s always been the PGA Tour … Right now you look at the best players that I see and they’re all sticking with the PGA Tour and that’s where I kind of stay and that’s where I belong.”

Is he interested? Morikawa made comments in early 2022 pertaining to “growing the game,” a popular talking point for the Saudi League, and it seemed as though he could have some interest in the breakaway league. However, at the Genesis Invitational, he expressed his desire to stick with the PGA Tour.

Dustin Johnson (world rank: 5)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022.

What he’s said: “Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour; much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf … I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour.”

Is he interested? Johnson initially called the proposed league a “really good concept,” and did not make any public comments rebuking the league. However, he did an about-face in late February courtesy of a statement from his team which affirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy (world rank: 6)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “So for me, I’m out. My position is that I’m against it; there may come a day that I can’t be against it, if everyone else goes I might not have a choice. But at this point, I don’t like what they’re proposing.”

Is he interested? There has been no Tour player more vocal in his opposition to the super league than McIlroy. He’s made clear he doesn’t like the lack of autonomy he’d have in the new league, and also said he “wants to be on the right side of history,” citing concerns with where the money for the league comes from.

Tiger Woods (world rank: 744)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I just don’t want to go over there … It’s a long way.”

Is he interested? Woods has not said much about the proposed super league, but he has turned down some serious cash to play in Saudi Arabia. According to ESPN, Woods turned down an appearance fee in the neighborhood of $3 million to play in the event in 2019. The extreme travel requirements associated with the league also doesn’t seem like something the aging and injured 15-time major winner would sign on for.

Justin Thomas (world rank: 7)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I think if the idea of other competition and other tours or whatever happening, I think it’s a good opportunity for the Tour to kind of maybe sit back and us players sit back to realize what can we do better on our Tour and then make our product better, versus having two competing tours to me is not good because you’re diluting the product on both sides and it’s just not, you’re not going to get the best — it’s not possible to get the best players in the world on both tours … They’re either going to be one or the other or a little bit of both.”

Is he interested? Thomas seems like he wants to continue competing on the PGA Tour, but he wants to see some innovations to keep up with the super league.

Jordan Spieth (world rank: 15)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I can only say from my point of view I think that it’s been beneficial to the players to have competition, and I think the Tour would say that they probably feel that they’re in a better position going forward by having to sit back and kind of take a look at things and make some changes.”

Is he interested? Spieth, like his buddy Justin Thomas, remains committed to the PGA Tour (he’s playing Pebble Beach this week), but his comments make it clear he also wants to see some changes.

Daniel Berger (world rank: 16)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I haven’t had much communication with them and I love [the Pebble Beach Pro-Am], so I don’t think there would have been really a place where I would have had an opportunity to play there, because I would have been playing here.”

Is he interested? Berger doesn’t like to play many international tournaments — his last overseas event, other than the Open, was the Scottish Open in 2015 — so it seems he’d like to continue his career stateside.

Brooks Koepka (world rank: 18)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? Yes — in 2019, 2020.

What he’s said: “It’s been pretty clear for a long time now that I’m with the PGA TOUR, it’s where I’m staying. I’m very happy. I think they do things the right way. People I want to do business with. I’m happy to be here.”

Is he interested? Koepka played the Saudi International for the first two iterations of the event, but then in early 2020 and, more recently, in 2020 he expressed he is not interested in a super league, saying the Tour does “things the right way.”

Max Homa (world rank: 35)

Has he played in Saudi Arabia? No.

What he’s said: “I, for one, have not signed an NDA, nor have I talked to anybody who would offer me an NDA. I don’t know anything … Money’s cool. People out here, some people play for the money, some people play for the love of it, I guess the enjoyment of the successes. But I can promise you right now that the furthest thing from my mind and furthest thing from anyone’s question really was when I won this golf tournament, I made the most money I’ve ever made in one lump, $1.67 million, and that’s not the part that I remember. That’s my take on it. I’m not saying that these leagues couldn’t be great, and things may change. My point is everything through this golf tournament that has made me get the chills as I talk about it and get the chills as I drive up here and think “what the hell” when I see my picture on things out on the golf course that I grew up to love, I would not be getting that anywhere else. That’s my allegiance, I guess.”

Is he interested? Homa appears to have no interest in the Saudi golf league. His press conference at the Genesis Invitational tells it all.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.