NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — Last week, the PGA Tour announced increased pay and new events among other measures to combat the Saudi-funded LIV tour.
How does that hit the LIV golfers?
"I think it's great for the guys out there, that LIV maybe made other tours to elevate their possibilities," Martin Kaymer said Wednesday. "I think it's good for all the players. I think the bottom line is it's great for the members of the tour, but somehow it comes across that everybody is fighting against each other. That's not the case, or that shouldn't be the case."
Kaymer and his LIV colleagues may not be interested in trading barbs, but those are still coming their way. As LIV stages its first stateside tournament and second overall this week at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, it does so amid further criticism from Rory McIroy, who said players who left the PGA Tour to join LIV did so in "duplicitous" fashion, and several Oregon officials including Senator Ron Wyden, who note Saudi Arabia's ugly human rights record.
With more big names signing with LIV in recent days, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan unveiled changes for the 2023 season designed to retain talent. That includes a prize money increase of several million dollars at eight of the PGA Tour's prime tournaments, as well as a calendar-year schedule to relax the demand on its golfers, which is one of LIV's appeals besides the untold gobs of cash thrown players' way.
It doesn't, however, sound like there's much regret on the LIV side.
"For me personally, I’m happy for the guys on the PGA Tour," Sergio Garcia said. "I'm happy that they can enjoy that. I'll just say it that way."
Was there anything the Tour could have done to stop more players from leaving? Garcia, Kaymer and Lee Westwood all mentioned transparency and communication as pitfalls, without delving into specifics.
They also expressed disappointment with the European Tour, which just announced a 13-year partnership extension with the PGA Tour and recently fined LIV players $120,000 each and banned them from participating in three of its next four events. The exception is The Open Championship, which has already announced LIV players can compete next month at St. Andrews in Scotland.
"I've been a European Tour member for 29 years," said Westwood, who like Kaymer and Garcia is a European native, "and a lot of those years I've also been a member of the PGA Tour as well, and the European Tour, as long as I've played my four (events to retain membership), have never had any problems with me playing anywhere else. And now it seems to be a problem.
"Yeah, communication, and as far as fines and sanctions and things like that, I'm disappointed."
Monahan has been outspoken against Saudi Arabia and its seemingly bottomless sovereign wealth fund, which finances LIV Golf.
Less than two events in, LIV players are already seasoned veterans at dancing around those questions. But they're also stressing that their own handsome compensation is a net good among golfers.
"I think when we look back in 12 months' time, yeah, there were some issues. There were some difficulties. But I strongly believe in all the tours," Kaymer said. "... If LIV Golf helps the PGA Tour and the European Tour to provide even better playing opportunities and financially to support players even more, I think it's a win-win."
"Competition is good," Westwood added. "Keep it simple."