In a surprise revelation, Sergio Garcia continues to remain eligible for Ryder Cup selection despite withdrawing his name from an arbitration hearing early next month to determine if the European Tour was right to suspend LIV Golf players like Garcia from competition.
A five-day hearing, headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Phillip Sycamore and two KCs, will be held from February 6th to 10th at the Sport Resolutions Centre in London to try and resolve the issue.
At the outset, 18 LIV Golf players signed the lawsuit against the actions of the European Tour in being suspended in joining LIV Golf but with another court offering a stay of their suspension that has allowed them to continue competing on the DP World Tour, including this week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, until the outcome of the case next month.
However, three of those in the Augusta winners, Garcia and Charles Schwartzel along with Branden Grace have withdrawn their appeal.
That does leave 15 players – Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui, Justin Harding, Lee Westwood, Sam Horsfield, Richard Bland, Sean Norris, Laurie Canter, Wade Ormsby, Patrick Reed, Bernd Wiesberger, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer – who are intent in having the suspension formally overturned.
European Tour CEO Keith Pelley said: “In simple terms, the hearing will focus on the European Tour’s tournament release procedures and their ability to enforce it.
“It’s as straightforward as that and the hearing will be very narrow as it has a very specific parameter.
“Provisional clarity of the issues is not the same and they are with regards the litigations on the PGA Tour, and not least the difference in the laws in the UK compared to the US.
“It’s also not about us suspending members and banning from this or banning from that which have also been incorrectly reported. It’s not that. It’s simply to regulate on this narrow regulation point.”
And despite Garcia dropping out of the lawsuit, the out-spoken LIV star currently remains in frame for Rome selection, if European captain Luke Donald is wishing him in his team.
Garcia holds the record for the most appearances in a European Ryder Cup with an unbroken run of 11 from his debut in 1999 to last year.
Pelley said: “As long as you’re a member of the Tour, Luke (Donald) is free to pick anyone he wants in his European team, even an honorary member like Sergio no longer requires to be a full member to be chosen.
“So, at this particular time Sergio can still play in a Ryder Cup, and nothing changes, as he still meets the rules and regulations for selection even though he filed for a release from the European Tour that was denied.
“Though that could change depending on what transpires from next month’s arbitration hearing in London.”
And what if the European Tour loses the hearing?
Pelley said: “We had said all along that we will go through with the hearing and whatever is the result will make decisions at that point of time.
“However, I am not going to comment on chances or whatever as to whether we are going to win or lose. Let’s just say that in my own business life I have never been faced with a situation like this before
“I was involved in a couple of minor issues but not something like this.”