Centurion - South Africa’s four-time major champion Ernie Els has slammed the LIV Golf series, in its current format.
The Saudi-funded series features tournaments with three rounds of 18 holes, totalling 54 holes instead of the traditional 72. Crucially, there is no cut and therefore a guaranteed, hefty, paycheque for every player.
In an interview with Golf Digest, Els said: “Just because you are playing for $20 million a week doesn’t change anything.
“It’s still 54 holes. There’s no basis to it, there’s no substance to it. You can’t have a 48-man tour playing no-cut golf and expect the world to take you seriously. It’s not going to happen.”
The PGA Tour and DP World Tour (DPWT) seem to be on the same page about the breakaway tour, which has been labelled as shameless sports washing as the Saudi regime is guilty of a number of human rights abuses.
Though Els, 52, did not give his thoughts on where the money was coming from - he gave his insights from his career as a truly global golfer in his heyday.
“If anybody understands getting a little screwed by the PGA Tour, it’s me,” he said.
“Despite being a South African Tour member, 15 events was still the minimum I had to play on the PGA Tour. If I wanted to play more overseas, I had to play more in the U.S. I felt that was unfair and I had a talk with [then PGA Tour commissioner] Tim Finchem 20-25 years ago. And we came to a solution. I could play a schedule I was comfortable with in the U.S. while still competing across the globe. Which I did. I played 30-32 events for the bulk of my prime and I got to play around the world.
“So there were concessions made by the U.S. tour. There’s a way of playing worldwide golf and myself, Greg Norman and Fred Couples all did. You can work with the system. But I just don’t feel the way all sides are going right now is right in the long run.”
Els said the solution, while hinting he’d been approached by the Saudi organisers, to the conflicting dates of the LIV Golf series would be to hold it in the offseason.
“It’s crazy at the moment. It’s just a shame how things are being split up. My view—and I discussed this with the Saudi people a long time ago—was always to do things with the major tours. Everybody should partner up in this team and individual format. And play it in the dead season. That wouldn’t interfere with any of the main tours, It wouldn’t interfere with real golf as we know it.”
“Greg [Norman] keeps stirring from his side and it seems that [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay [Monahan] has got to defend himself. Some of the players have also been speaking out and it seems like a tug of war a little bit. It’s really very uncomfortable and surely there has to be some kind of negotiation to come. But the LIV side, they have dug their heels in. They need to negotiate with the tour and the tour needs to talk to them to see if there can be some compromise.”
Like LIV Golf the US Champions Tour features 54 hole events, but given only players over the age of 50 are eligible it’s understandable. However, the US Champions Tour does not award world rankings points either, which Els highlighted.
“The rest of the world is playing 72-hole stroke-play events. You have a cut after 36 holes and that’s how you get your ranking and make your money. LIV Golf doesn’t do that, so why would you be under the same brush with the rest of the world. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a different format of golf. It’s what we do on the Champions Tour at the age of 50 and they don’t give us world ranking points.”
With Australian Cameron Smith, who won The Open at St Andrews on Sunday, being linked with a possible move to LIV Golf - Els cautioned the youngster about the switch.
“He is in a great position right now,” said Els. “He’s entering his prime. He’s 28 and he’s got time now to win majors and I wouldn’t want to put that under any danger of not happening. I would not at this stage go on any other tour where I might not play in a major again. I would play my golf and put myself in the history books as far as I can go. I would stay exactly where I am. Do what I do. The money is there—it’s already there. Besides, the way Cam is playing, LIV will be there and his value might go up. So I’d stay exactly where I am, in my lane, and try to win more majors.”