KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — The PGA of America joined with other organizations with statements of support for the PGA Tour and European Tour in response to a Saudi-backed “Super Golf League” trying to lure top players with massive amounts of money.
Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, left no doubt about his position.
To chase the money is to give up on the Ryder Cup.
“If someone wants to play on a Ryder Cup for the U.S., they’re going to need to be a member of the PGA of America, and they get that membership through being a member of the tour,” Waugh said Tuesday. “I believe the Europeans feel the same way. And so I don’t know that we can be more clear than that.”
Waugh brings a different perspective from his previous job as CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, a world he says he all about “disruption.”
“Should it be a hostile takeover of the game I think is way too far,” Waugh said. “I struggle with what they’re solving for. The game is not in a crisis. ... I think the players have never been better served than they are right now.”
He said players tempted by the money — reports put some offers at $50 million — should “be careful what you wish for.”
“I don’t think anything is hugely broken, so I’m not sure what the solve is for totally, other than an outside body trying to disrupt and get into the game in a way that I don’t think is in the best long-term interest of the game,” he said.
Lee Westwood said no one has offered him $50 million to join the league, but if he was offered that at age 48, “it’s a no-brainer.”
“I think they’ve obviously got a lot of money and they’ve come out and sent a few shockwaves about and people feel threatened,” Westwood said. “The people that feel threatened are trying to combat it.”
Waugh also was asked if players considering the proposal should be morally concerned about the source of the money, in this case the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
“Yeah, I think very mindful. I think enough said. But I think very mindful,” he said. “Money is money, right? And so money needs to have a return and have all those things associated with it. But some money is better than the other money. If the only weapon you have is money, that’s what you’re going to leave with. I think that’s what’s going on.”
The PGA Championship was the first major to return after the COVID-19 pandemic with no spectators, as was the case with the U.S. Open and Masters.
Crowds are slowly coming back as vaccinations gain momentum, with 10,000 allowed this week at Kiawah Island.
For the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits the final weekend in September, the PGA of America is hopeful of a full house.
“Our plan is to ... have it be the greatest Ryder Cup in history. I think the world as we’ve seen is ready to have a party,” CEO Seth Waugh said Tuesday. "The Olympics is going to happen, it looks like, but not in the way that you would hope it would. And so this is really going to be the first time to cheer for your country, to have that sort of tribal ... atmosphere that is so important.
“We’re hopeful that September will be one of the great events in golf and a great sort of exclamation point to the end of this thing.”
Kerry Haigh, the chief championships officer for the PGA, said the Ryder Cup was a sellout long before it had to be canceled last year. Corporate sponsors and spectators had the option of hanging onto the tickets or asking for a refund, and Haigh said a “vast majority” of them kept their place in line.
“We're hopeful that by September, we will be able to have full attendance,” Haigh said. “If it were today we could not based on where COVID numbers are, but certainly with the vaccine and the numbers coming down, we are very hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to have a full attendance.”
He did not say how many fans would be expected at full attendance, only that it's a sellout.
WESTWOOD OUT OF OLYMPICS
Lee Westwood has a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but he says he won’t be playing.
The 48-year-old Westwood is ranked 21st in the world, which is fourth best among players from England. Up to four players from one country can qualify for the Olympics provided they are in the top 15.
Westwood says the Olympics don’t fit into his busy summer schedule. He says he needs time off between the British Open and the World Golf Championship in Tennessee, and a trip to Japan would be draining.
"I have a few family commitments, and I already proved a few weeks ago that playing seven in eight weeks is not good for me,” Westwood said. “I’m of an age where I need to make a plan and stick to that going forward, else my game suffers.”
RYDER CUP PAIRING?
It’s not unusual for U.S. Ryder Cup captains to work with the PGA Tour during the year to orchestrate groupings of potential team members. That appears to be the case at the PGA Championship, too, with Steve Stricker playing alongside Match Play winner Billy Horschel and Pebble Beach winner Daniel Berger.
As for the European captain? Padraig Harrington is playing with former PGA champions Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. Harrington won the PGA in 2008 at Oakland Hills.
“I can guarantee if this was the BMW PGA Championship in Britain I would be playing with two potential qualifiers, so I would expect nothing else,” Harrington said.
The Irishman said he would have wanted to play with Stricker, except the PGA Championship tends to group its champions together.
Besides, Harrington doesn’t want the Ryder Cup on the mind of potential players. He wants them to try to win a major.
Jim “Bones” Mackay, the longtime caddie for Phil Mickelson who now works on NBC telecasts, is back to work this week on the bag for Max Homa. Homa's regular looper, Joe Greiner, qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Chambers Bay. ... Sergio Garcia has returned to TaylorMade with a new equipment contract. Garcia left the company after winning the Masters in 2017 and had been with Callaway. ... The PGA of America stuck to its tradition by having the reigning major champions in the same group — PGA champion Collin Morikawa, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.
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