The First Call Inbox

Players' conundrum: Where to play?

The First Call readers react to whether players should have to decide between playing the PGA Tour or the proposed Saudi league

Saudi International 2022
Bryson DeChambeau (USA) tees off the 16th tee during Thursday’s Round 1 of the Saudi International 2022 powered by SoftBank, held on the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 03/02/2022 Picture: Eoin Clarke | Golffile All photos usage must carry mandatory copyright credit (© Golffile | Eoin Clarke)

> Question of the Week (February 28-March 6): What are your thoughts on the PGA Tour possibly barring or banning players who may play in the proposed Saudi league?

It's difficult for the PGA Tour to call players independent contractors, and then when a player intends to act independently, make continued participation on the Tour dependent on not acting independently.

Chris Belanger
Cincinnati, Ohio

PGA Tour pros should be able to play in whatever tournament they may enter. If they want to play as part of another venue, so what? Why may they not play as part of two venues? The market of competition in professional golf will let the best venue rise to the top. I don't believe that the PGA Tour should monopolize the talent pool and punish those who wish to play elsewhere. Players still need to perform at a certain level to retain their card status. So, what's the beef?

Clark Niepert
Sarasota, Fla.

To bar or not to bar that is the question? I think the real question is, does the PGA Tour have the right to do so? If so, then it opens the Tour to a few options. Do they indefinitely bar with a chance for reinstatement? Do they permanently bar? Should they have a probation period? Maybe forbid a player from playing certain events. I think if it's proven that indeed the PGA Tour does have this authority then it can implement many different scenarios.

Now if we're asking should Phil [Mickelson] be barred, then the answer is yes. He committed a mortal sin against the Tour and admitted he did so. Should it be permanently enforced? No, I don't believe so, but he first must apologize with true contrition and actually ask for the Tour's forgiveness. So far all he has done is to apologize to the Saudis and Greg Norman. Otherwise, he can ban himself because of self indifference. Balls in your court Philly.

Robert Fish
Sun Lakes, Ariz.

I am not a lawyer, but I do question the legality of the PGA Tour banning players who play in the Saudi league. Although I really don't care about the Saudi league or Greg Norman's agenda, I do wish a player would test this in court as it seems the PGA Tour is being a little heavy-handed. I would bet this is a debatable issue, and certainly not clear cut. 

I also feel the players' complaints, specifically Phil Mickelson, are being vindicated to some degree already. Where did the money for the PIP program come from? Was it just lying around in a piggy bank? The players can easily argue that money could have been directed toward the players long before the threat of Saudi competition arose. In other words, the Tour had no plans for this at all until threatened, and in essence, it was taking advantage of the players. Which, regardless of how one feels about Mickelson handling it the right way, proves his point. 

Jon Lucas
Little Rock, Ark.

What needs to not be forgotten is that the Saudi family was directly connected to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi. As Phil [Mickelson] candidly spoke about, why would anyone want to attach your brand to that? The player or the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, have a fiduciary duty to protect the brand. And I agree with him 100 percent. He is trying to tell the players without blatantly saying we can't be attached to this government and the people who violated so many human rights. The PGA Tour is far bigger than the top 12 players. And it’s good to see that players are now getting the point that this is a public relations and career killer. Greg Norman still has his nose out of place about what he feels the World Golf League idea was stolen from him. But teaming with a corrupt government and family for the lust of the dollar is a huge mistake and I’m glad the PGA players and Jay Monahan see this.

Dez Martello
Hinsdale, Ill.

I find it very odd that an independent contractor can be suspended for seeking other work. The term independent clearly, and unequivocally, implies a freedom to work for a variety of employers. While I am not a lawyer, I suspect a federal judge — who may or may not play golf — will have an opinion on this restriction. I would not want to be the lawyer trying to defend the PGA Tour's position if, and when, this reaches the U.S. courts. 

Reid Farrill
Toronto, Canada

Never going to happen — or at least not for long. The tournament sponsors and the effected charities would revolt. What would the TV networks pay for the broadcast rights to watch Charlie Hoffman duel it out with Billy Haas?

Gary Shimmin
Okatie, S.C.

No bans.  Players should have freedom to play where and when they want.  

Kathleen Eaton
Raleigh N.C.

To address your question about what do I think about the PGA Tour banning players who play on the Saudi tour. Its stance should be the same no matter what tour. Play your minimum number of events on the PGA Tour and then do whatever the heck you want. Anything other than that is BS.

Jeff McCrory
Dunwoody, Ga.

The PGA Tour is the purest form of meritocracy in sports. Why mess with it?

If you work hard, practice long hours, pay your own way and play well, then you win tournaments, get TV exposure, make big money, get famous, get endorsements. Conversely, if you don't put the work in, then you start missing cuts, disappear from TV coverage, drop in rankings, stop making enough money to cover expenses and you're probably going to be looking for a new profession. 

That's the beauty of professional golf. I certainly don't want to watch a group of golfers who are each guaranteed millions of dollars just to show up going through the motions. 

Andre Brysha
Newport Beach, Calif. 

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Golfers who participate in sportswashing by the murderous Saudi regime should be permanently banned. They would be prostituting their skills and talents for the sake of the almighty dollar. The PGA should not sully itself with golf whores.

Timothy Dowling
Reston, Va.

As the PGA Tour continues to call players independent contractors, it should not infringe upon the players' right to profit from other opportunities or employers of clients the players choose to work for.

Plumbers and handymen need income from multiple clients to stay in business.

Mark Dwyre
Huron, Ohio

If you believe in democracy, then support Phil [Mickelson's] right to say and choose what he wants. Barring him is just another authoritarian take away.

Steve Levee
Rockville, Md.

While it seems reasonable that PGA Tour players would not be allowed to play in two leagues simultaneously, it seems unreasonable they would be banned from applying to rejoin the PGA Tour at some point in the future. A lifetime ban smacks of illegality or restraint of trade. It’s hard to imagine the NFL without greats like Steve Young, Reggie White, Jim Kelly, or Herschel Walker — and hundreds of others who left for the ill-fated USFL — yet returned for standout NFL careers.

John Cullen
La Quinta, Calif.

Yes, ban the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions players. The Saudis' atrocities on human rights is appalling.

Richard Ladesic
Acworth, Ga.

My belief is those players who choose to play on that tour should be barred from playing either the PGA or the European tour for six months. Anyone who wishes to support a group that treats others, both male and female, the way the Saudis do has earned that reward.

Money is not everything. Greed is not good.

Don Moore
Warren, PA

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