"This is not a sign he's going to LIV Golf" - Source close to PGA Tour pro

A source close to PGA Tour player Cameron Champ says his PIF Saudi International appearance is not as sign he's joining the LIV Golf League.

Ben Smith's picture
Wed, 1 Feb 2023
"This is not a sign he's going to LIV Golf" - Source close to PGA Tour pro

PGA Tour pro Cameron Champ is playing a "one-off" event in Saudi Arabia and it shouldn't be interpreted as a sign he is testing the waters for the LIV Golf League, according to a source close to the American.

As reported by Barstool Sports' Dan Rapaport, Champ has committed to his full schedule on the PGA Tour and has already committed to the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, which has been given "elevated" status. 

Champ and two other PGA Tour players - Jhonattan Vegas and the reigning rookie of the year Cameron Young, are in the field at the PIF Saudi International this week at the Asian Tour's flagship event. 

Related: LIV Golf poach another PGA Tour winner

PGA Tour commissioner confirmed that players were granted releases to compete in the tournament, which conflicts with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

The source close to Champ told Rapaport: 

"Champ is playing a one-off in Saudi this week and will return for his full schedule on the PGA Tour at WMPO. He's been invited several times alongside other players in the past and has been keen to play. This is the year that it worked in the schedule. It shouldn't be suggested or interpreted he's there in connection with LIV." 

What's the deal with the releases? 

Whilst the event is under the banner of the Asian Tour, it is sponsored by Saudi's sovereign wealth fund PIF. 

PIF is the primary back of LIV Golf. 

According to the PGA Tour's player handbook, members are generally not allowed to compete in events when there is a PGA-approved or sponsored event taking place at the same time. 

But if members play in a minimum of 15 events [the number of events needed to have voting rights] then players are eligible for three conflicting-event releases per season. 

That's why so many players have played in the Saudi International, where the prize purse runs into the millions and the appearance fees are mind-boggling. 

Last year's Saudi International - won by Harold Varner - proved to be an indicater of those who would be future breakaway tour members. 

Varner has recently slammed the petty behaviour of the PGA Tour and LIV. 

All these players competed then signed for LIV:

Phil Mickelson

Cameron Smith

Dustin Johnson

Matt Wolff

Ian Poulter

Lee Westwood

Joaquin Niemann

Abraham Ancer

Bubba Watson

Paul Casey

Sergio Garcia

Kevin Na

Patrick Reed

Jason Kokrak 

Henrik Stenson

That being said, there are some who played in Jeddah last year that have so far remained loyal to the PGA Tour. 

Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tony Finau all teed it up at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. 

We don't know which players requested releases. 

Event releases have been at the heart of LIV's antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. 

LIV alleged in their original filing last August that the the purpose of their action was to:

"Strike down the PGA Tour's anticompetitive rules and practices that prevent these independent-contractor golfers from playing when and where they choose."

Next page: Nine players who changed their mind about LIV Golf