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Perez: Young players are 'not going to follow Phil, they're not going to follow DeChambeau' — Saudi golf league updates

February 17, 2022

Orlando Ramirez

Following his first round at the Genesis Invitational, PGA Tour veteran Pat Perez held court on Phil Mickelson’s statements about the Saudi-back golf league.

Perez, who like Mickelson hails from San Diego, said Lefty “is not speaking for me.” Perez also said he doesn’t “really care what [Mickelson] has to say about anything because I just don't.”

“He's had an amazing career, he obviously thinks there's something else on the other side for him going down the line,” Perez continued. “If he gets it, great. He's made $800 million on the tour, I don't know what could be so bad about the tour. So I don't know, I don't know."

Without stopping, Perez pivoted to state that his mindset about the potential rival league to the PGA Tour is more aligned with a different multiple-major winner.

“I think the way Tiger's approaching it is phenomenal. I think he understands where he made all his money. I think these young kids, I think that's great that they're backing Tiger. But Tiger, Tiger's our guy. Tiger and I are three months apart. I idolized him my whole life even though we're the same age. What he says is pretty much gold. You know, I would follow his lead more than anything. If he doesn't want to do it, Rory [McIlroy] doesn't want to do it and if you don't have the top kids doing it, I just don't know how much water it's going to hold anyway. I don't know how long it's going take.

“They're not going to follow Phil, they're not going to follow DeChambeau unfortunately. You need the young crew right now to go do this thing. I don't know exactly what Phil, why he's got so much hate towards the tour. I mean, He's damn near 52 now. I know he won a major last year. It's incredible what he did, it really is, but I don't know, you know.”

Perez said he understands the gripes that the top players should make more money. Although he acknowledged he makes crumbs compared to them, “those crumbs pay nice.” Perez also said he understands why rumored players would make the jump.

“So you look at the older group that wants to do it, they all have had phenomenal careers. Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Phil, these older guys that are my age. You throw me a hundred and I actually get it, I'm gone. I would take it. Why wouldn't you?” He also said he likes the idea of some guaranteed money for the top 125 players.

Still, Perez says his commitment is to the PGA Tour.

“I'm all for building the tour, but like I said, I think the PGA Tour’s a phenomenal place to play, you know, and I'm lucky to be here.” —Joel Beall

Niemann declines comment on Saudi league

Feb. 17, 8:49 p.m.: Joaquin Niemann, who is leading the Genesis Invitational after 18 holes thanks to an eight-under 63, declined comment when asked if he’s in talks with the Saudi golf league.

“I don't really want to say anything, any comment about it,” Niemann said Thursday. “I just don't want to say anything, sorry.”

Niemann, 23, was a participant in the Saudi International earlier this month. —Joel Beall

Kokrak says he's had talks with Saudi league

Feb. 17, 4:48 p.m.: Jason Kokrak acknowledged Thursday that he’s had talks with the Saudi group behind the proposed Super Golf League.

“Yes, I’ve heard the rumors, I’ve been in some talks with the people over there playing in there tournament,” Kokrak told Golf Digest’s Dan Rapaport. “Yeah, I’ve been in talks with people, nothing on paper.”

Kokrak, who turned in a first-round 67 at Riviera, is a Saudi Golf ambassador and played in this year’s Saudi International. He reiterated he wants to make as much money as possible to retire at 44 years old (Kokrak is 36).

“You know, I grew up … I had what I needed but I didn’t have extra stuff. I don’t know how the other players grew up, that’s there business. We’re all independent contractors … I’ve had a goal in my mind when I turned pro and that was to retire when I was 44, to be a father and be at home. Being out here, the PGA Tour has too many events.

“You don’t see the players with the longevity playing 25, 30 years and moving to the Champions Tour. There’s too much on the line with the FedEx Cup, there’s points on the line in the fall. … The tour is all about giving player opportunities. The veteran guys, the top guys don’t want to play a schedule from Jan. 1 to December. So, I think that offseason for the top guys, to give some of those other guys who are barely keeping their card or didn’t make a ton of money a chance to get some of that PGA Tour money.” —Joel Beall

Justin Thomas calls Mickelson’s statement 'egotistical'

Feb. 17, 4:30 p.m.: Justin Thomas’ play did plenty of talking at Riviera Thursday, his four-under 67 good enough for a spot among the first wave leaders. The former PGA champ made quite the statement afterwards behind the mic.

Thomas was asked if he had seen Phil Mickelson’s comments in Thursday’s report at the Fire Pit Collective. Thomas said he had not, but was given the synopsis that Mickelson is leveraging the proposed Saudi golf league to better the PGA Tour. With this summary in hand, Thomas did not hold back.

“Seems like a bit of a pretty, you know, egotistical statement,” Thomas said. “I don't know, it's like he's done a lot of great things for the PGA Tour, it's a big reason it is where it is, but him and others that are very adamant about that, if they're that passionate, go ahead. I don't think anybody's stopping them.”

Thomas was then asked if he feels the sport has reached a will-they-or-won’t-they precipice with some of the players rumored to be affiliated with the Super Golf League.

“I'm way past that,” Thomas said. “I've heard way too much talk about a lot of players that are so done with everything, but they keep hanging around, so clearly they're not too done.”

Thomas, a former FedEx Cup champ, has been adament that his loyalty is to the PGA Tour. —Joel Beall

Report: 20 players have signed up for SGL, announcement coming at Players

Feb. 17, 8:40 a.m.: According to Alan Shipnuck of the Fire Pit Collective, the Saudi-backed league has now signed 20 players to its circuit, with plans to formally announce the group at the Players Championship. Shipnuck reported the news on Twitter, stating the source of the information was "a very prominent agent." The source said that the 20-player threshold was the number officials with the Saudi league internally were waiting for before publically launching the league.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has promised any player that joins a rival circuit faces immediate suspension and a possible lifetime ban. —Joel Beall

Rahm backs PGA Tour; Scott says he's in talks with breakaway league

Feb. 16, 5:40 p.m.: The current World No. 1 is staying with the PGA Tour. A former World No. 1, however, may be on the move.

Amid growing speculation regarding a Saudi-backed golf league, Jon Rahm—in a bit of an impromptu press conference at the Genesis Invitational—reiterated his stance that he is sticking with the PGA Tour.

“I wanted to take the time to say, this is my official, one and only time I’ll talk about this ... I’m declaring my fealty to the PGA Tour,” Rahm said Wednesday. “I know there’s been a lot of talk with the Saudi league; this is something I don’t believe is the best for me and the future of golf, and I think the best legacy I can accomplish is with the PGA [Tour].

"I don’t do this for the money, which to me is the only appeal to go over there.”

But 2013 Masters champ Adam Scott’s allegiance seems to be up in the air, confirming he’s been in talks with the proposed Super Golf League.

"I think the schedule they’re proposing is very appealing to most golfers," Scott said. "But like everyone else, we’re sworn to secrecy."

Scott is likely referencing an NDA, one that Lee Westwood said he signed during the week of the Saudi International.

Scott, 41, won the Genesis in 2020. But since that victory he’s dropped nearly 40 spots in the World Ranking, entering the week at No. 46. —Joel Beall

Rory: 'All that money really isn't going to change their life'

Feb. 16, 11:50 a.m.: Rory McIlroy reiterated his stance against a rival league to the PGA Tour on Wednesday, calling the eye-popping sums the Saudi-backed venture is reportedly offering players “just a number.”

“Look, I’ve lived it—for the top guys, all that money really isn’t going to change their life,” McIlroy told Golf Digest ahead of the Genesis Invitational, his first start on the PGA Tour in 2022. “I’m in a way better financial position than I was a decade ago and my life is no different. I still use the same three, four rooms in my house. I just don’t see the value in tarnishing a reputation for extra millions.”

McIlroy, who serves on the PGA Tour’s policy board, spoke out against a rival circuit when news of it first began percolating in 2020 and has consistently maintained his opposition since. The 32-year-old has 20 wins on the PGA Tour and ranks sixth all-time in career earnings with more than $59 million.

The proposed rival league, which is expected to be launched by the Greg Norman-led LIV Golf Investments in the near future, has dominated conversations around Riviera after tour player Kramer Hickok told the Stripe Show Podcast that 17 players had already signed up for the league and that huge-money, no-cut events would begin this summer. —Dan Rapaport

Tour pro tells podcast 17 players have signed up for rival circuit

Feb. 15, 3:41 pm.: PGA Tour player Kramer Hickok claims that 17 players have signed on to the proposed Super Golf League.

Hickok, speaking Tuesday on the Stripe Show podcast, did not identify any specifically by name. However, Hickok alluded to the group not being short on star power.

"You’re going to see a lot of big names jump over there. I think there’s already been 17 guys that have jumped over, and I can’t say who they are, but there’s going to be some big names going over there," Hickok said on the Stripe Show podcast. "Look, I mean, from what I’ve heard the money’s very, very appealing. You’re only gonna have 12-14 events. Those events are gonna have purses. You’re not going to have to deal with missing a cut anymore; there’s only going to be 40 players. And 10 of those 14 events will be in the States. Signing bonuses, huge, huge purses—it’s going to be very appealing for some of these guys. Yeah you’ll see some big names for sure.”

While Hickok asserted his belief that tour players should be receiving a bigger slice of the tour’s profits, he went on to say that those jumping to the SGL are “money hungry.”

“I think you have to be thankful and appreciative for the tour. They've given us this platform to be able to chase our dreams and do what we love and make a great living doing it,” Hickok continued. “To go after a few extra bucks, I think it might be a little greedy because you don’t know how long that [SGL] tour is going to be around; you don’t know if that money’s going to dry up; you don’t know what’s going to happen, and if you do leave you’ll be banned from the tour; the tour’s come out and said that.”

Hickok said he’s heard the SGL is targeting a June start. The 29-year-old is 63rd in the FedEx Cup standings and is in this week’s Genesis Invitational field. —Joel Beall

Collin Morikawa says he won't be joining SGL

Feb. 15, 3:38 pm.: Collin Morikawa dismissed the possibility of joining the rumored Saudi-backed golf league, saying he is “all for the PGA Tour” at his pre-tournament press conference for the Genesis Invitational on Tuesday.

“My entire life I've thought about the PGA Tour,” the World No. 2 and Southern California native said ahead of his hometown event. "I've thought about playing against Tiger, beating his records, whatever, something that might not even be breakable, but I've never had another thought of what's out there, right? I've never thought about anything else, it's always been the PGA Tour.

“Has [the rival league] opened up things for us as professional golfers, to open up things for the PGA Tour to look at what to do better? Absolutely. We've seen a lot of changes, some good, some bad, some that are still going to be amended I'm sure as time goes on. Right now, you look at the best players that I see and they're all sticking with the PGA Tour, and that's where I kind of stay and that's where I belong. I'm very happy to be here.” —Dan Rapaport

Charley Hoffman says he should have phrased now-deleted Instagram post 'differently'

Charley Hoffman is not backing down. Well, unless you believe deleting one of the spicier Instagram posts in recent memory—in which Hoffman called out the PGA Tour and the USGA for what he believed was a bad ruling—is backing down.

Despite the disappearance of the post from his Instagram account, Hoffman stands by what he said. He does, however, wish he had a mulligan of sorts, admitting as much in a radio interview on Monday on San Diego's 97.3 The Fan.

"If I could go back in time, I probably would have phrased it a little differently at the end of those comments," Hoffman told Gwynn & Chris, a show hosted by Tony Gwynn Jr. and Chris Ello.

Following the second round of the WM Phoenix Open, Hoffman ripped the PGA Tour and USGA for a rule and its enforcement, the rule and its enforcement, going so far as to say the situation was a prime example of why players are interested in leaving the tour for the proposed Super Golf League.

“You wonder why guys are wanting to jump ship and go play on another tour. Players need transparency, protection and consistency,” Hoffman wrote. “We don't have that under the current governing bodies.”

Hoffman acknowledged the criticism he has received and admitted it affected his play over the weekend. “I lost a little bit of focus, definitely," Hoffman said. "I was treading water with the PGA Tour and the USGA and my fellow players. When you make a post [on social media] there are a lot of different ways to interpret it; that's this day and age of social media. So yes, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about it. You live and you learn. I'll own it, and I'll try and stay out of it going forward."

However, he reiterated his post was purposeful in order to grab attention.

"I've gotten a little backlash on that," Hoffman added. "But I felt, at the time, if I didn't phrase it the way I did, the media might not pick up on it and no change could happen." —Chris Powers

DeChambeau says reports on his PGA Tour status are 'completely inaccurate'

Bryson DeChambeau took to Twitter Monday to clarify his absence from this week’s Genesis Invitational.

Amid speculation regarding his relationship and future with the PGA Tour, DeChambeau wrote that he’s missing this week’s tour event at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles due to injury and addressed what he calls “false reports.”

“There are many false reports going around by the media that are completely inaccurate,” wrote on Twitter. “Any news regarding my health or playing schedule will come directly from me and my team only. This is just another inaccurate report. I look forward to getting healthy and seeing everyone soon!”

DeChambeau’s statement came hours after the popular No Laying Up podcast relayed that the former U.S. Open winner—according to sources who had talked to the No Laying Up crew—had told his fellow players that he was done playing the PGA Tour. DeChambeau had originally stated to the players, according to the podcast, that the Sony Open would be his last event, although he withdrew from the Hawaiian tournament due to a wrist injury. DeChambeau would later play in the tour’s Farmers Insurance Open in late January. According to No Laying Up, DeChambeau again told fellow players he was done competing on the PGA Tour during the Saudi Invitational two weeks ago. DeChambeau only played one round at that tournament before withdrawing with hand and hip pain. Following his WD, DeChambeau said the injury wasn’t due to speed or weight training but a fall.

DeChambeau has been one of the more prominent names associated with the Super Golf League, a potential golf circuit to rival the PGA Tour backed by a group that also runs the aforementioned Saudi International. Earlier this month the Daily Mail reported DeChambeau has been offered a nine-figure deal to join the league, a report that DeChambeau said was wrong. And following the second round of last week’s WM Phoenix Open, in response to Charley Hoffman’s rant aimed at the PGA Tour—in which Hoffman wrote, “You wonder why guys are wanting to jump ship and go play on another tour” and tagged the Saudi International—DeChambeau lent his support, remarking “Agree wholeheartedly.” —Joel Beall