Sergio Garcia is emerging as one of the big names seeking to play in the Saudi’s first breakaway series event with the Spaniard ready to risk his Ryder Cup future by appearing in the record $25m tournament in St Albans in June.
Monday is the last day for PGA Tour members to apply for a release to tee it up at the Centurion Club and it is understood that as many as 20 – including at least three major winners – had already applied for permission with hours left before the deadline fell at 5pm in Florida (10pm in UK).
Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have long been connected with the LIV Golf Invitational Series, run by Greg Norman, and if that pair and Garcia are playing in Hertfordshire chasing the $4million first prize in the 54-holer, then Europe’s chances of regaining the Ryder Cup in Rome next year and beyond could conceivably be affected.
While Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, will probably grant dispensation – the first LIV GOLf event in the US at the end of June will be his flashpoint – then word from inside the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – is that chief executive Keith Pelley could come down hard on the rebels.
The DP World Tour’s deadline is Tues, May 14, which will make this a tense fortnight at Wentworth HQ. Garcia is the match’s all-time leading points scorer and is only 42. The trio were all previously considered as shoo-ins as future Europe captains. All of that would be up in the air if they defied Pelley and his executive board. Inevitably it would result in a sizeable legal struggle, with Norman’s lawyers primed to pounce on any sanctions that would limit his pros’ playing options.
World No 15 Louis Oosthuizen could be the top-ranked player on show at Centurion, with the 2010 Open champion apparently lured by the huge purse which will hand over $120,000 to the player finishing last in the no-cut tournament.
As a South African, Oosthuizen, of course, has no Ryder Cup dilemma and neither do countrymen Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, and Branden Grace, most famous for making history at the 2018 Open by shooting the first ever 62 in a male major , who have also been mentioned. Kevin Na, the world No 32, could well provide an American presence.
However, it is Garcia who would surely attract most headlines, not least because of his disqualification from the inaugural Saudi International three years, where he purposefully damaged several greens.
The 2017 Masters champion returned to Jeddah to play earlier this year when the Tours did issue releases, but beforehand expressed his disapproval at the delay to the form being stamped.: ‘I understand the position of the tours but they have to understand that we are trying to achieve things for our families,” he said.
“I’ve been a European Tour member for 23 years and done a lot of things to make that happen. I’ve put a lot of mileage in my body to make it happen.’