PGA Tour confirms it has granted a 'few' releases for Saudi International

Augusta National Golf Club’s decision to keep its invitation criteria for the Masters unchanged will likely set up some awkward moments at the year’s first major between players who have remained loyal to the PGA Tour and those who have bolted for LIV Golf.

But it won’t be the first time the two camps cross paths this year.

A Tour official confirmed that a “few” Tour members requested and were granted conflicting-event and media releases to play next month’s Saudi International, an Asian Tour event that’s sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The official declined to give the exact number of exemptions that were granted or identify which players had asked to play the Saudi International, which had been a DP World Tour event before the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit emerged and created a rift in professional golf.

A handful of Tour players participated in last year’s Saudi International, including world No. 6 Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau and Tom Kim. It’s not known if any of those three plan to play this year’s event.

The Saudi International is scheduled to be played Feb. 2-5 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and has already received commitments from world No. 3 Cam Smith and defending champion Harold Varner III, who both joined LIV Golf last year and were suspended by the Tour for violating its conflicting-event release policies.