A PGA and European Tour showdown is looming reportedly with eight golfers, one including Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, seeking to contest next February’s fourth edition of the Saudi International. A total of eight players, headed by double major-winning Dustin Johnson, are believed to have sought a release from the PGA Tour to contest what is now a fully-fledged Asian Tour tournament.
The Europeans seeking to tee-up on the Royal Greens course overlooking the Red Sea according to Golf Week include 2020 champion McDowell along with the England duo of Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood plus Henrik Stenson. Others seeking a release are believed to be Abraham Ancer, Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak, who is sponsored by Golf Saudi.
All eight are applying for a release to play as members of the PGA Tour and an event that will clash with the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am however all eight will not know until the first week in January if they will be given permission to tee-up in Saudi Arabia.
Any PGA Tour affiliated player who tees-up in any event outside of the Tour without permission is subject to disciplinary action by the Tour.
Golf Week also says Clare Fleetwood, wife and manager of Tommy, confirmed that he has applied for a waiver but said no decision has been made on whether he will compete in the event. It was a huge blow five weeks after the European Tour announced an historic ‘strategic alliance’ with the PGA Tour that on September 20th, Saudi Golf announced a 10-year deal to team with the Asian Tour in hosting the Saudi International.
As well, the prize purse for the 2022 Saudi International has been increased by $1.5m to now $5m. The Asian Tour has been dormant since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus but returns in 2022 with a huge bang and now hosting what was clearly one of the European Tour’s marquee events thus robbing the Wentworth-based body of the second richest event on the four-event ‘Middle East Swing’.
The biggest supporter of the Saudi International has been Dustin Johnson winning both in 2019 and earlier this year as the game’s No. 1 ranked player. DJ’s manager, David Winkle told Golf Week: “We have requested a release and don’t know when we’ll hear back, but I have heard verbally that the Tour is still taking everything under consideration”.
Clearly it is not how the both the PGA and European Tour’s will wish for the 2022 season to commence with a showdown among some of the game’s top stars but if the game’s two biggest Tour’s are to fend off any talk of a rival ‘Super Golf League’ then the knives could be out to stop the eight players in question. And knowing PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan’s burning obsession to stop any new breakaway tour, it could also mean if any of the eight choose to compete in Saudi Arabia they could be staring at a lifetime PGA Tour ban.