The Players Championship, one of the biggest events in golf, is set to be played in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL this weekend. The event build-up calls for the usual conversations around who is playing, what to expect, and front-runners of the tournament. This year though, it has also stirred up conversations surrounding LIV Golf and what the future may hold for LIV players returning to the PGA.
The absence of players who have decided to join LIV has been felt by many in the past few months, but the biggest absence yet comes this weekend as Cameron Smith is unable to defend his championship title at The Players. In June of 2022, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a suspension from the PGA Tour for any player who joined LIV. Due to this suspension, Smith will be the first player in history to miss defending his title at the Players because of anything other than an injury. With Smith’s inability to defend his title this weekend being the forefront of conversation, it begs the question, what does the future look like for the PGA, LIV, and their respective players?
As it stands, there is no clear answer on if a player who has joined LIV Golf could ever go back to play in the PGA Tour or how that would work. Commissioner Monahan has expressed the PGA’s current point of view on the issue expressing there really is no way back, but, within the PGA, the players themselves have a different view. Players such as Rickie Fowler and Max Homa have suggested there could and should be a route back to the PGA for those that have left to join LIV. What that looks like, no one is sure, although there are some suggestions such as fines, suspensions, and even requalification. To make matters even more contentious, and the potential path muddier, there is an ongoing lawsuit between LIV players, LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour alleging monopolist behavior by the PGA with a countersuit against LIV for poaching players and interfering in business deals.
The wounds are still fresh for the PGA and time will be a major factor in figuring out what the next steps and best options are if LIV players do want to return to the PGA Tour. It seems that the way back will be a PGA player focused effort, headed by those on boards and councils within the tour, giving options and ideas on what different solutions could move all of the players forward together. There has yet to be a player from LIV who has asked to rejoin the PGA. Perhaps when that time comes, and there is a resolution to the legal actions currently ongoing, the pathway to a return will be visible.