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An ongoing clash between the PGA Tour and an upstart circuit could reach a tipping point early next year for some of the game’s top players, according to a Golfweek.com report.
At least eight Tour players, including world No. 2 Dustin Johnson, have requested a conflicting-event release from the Tour to play the Saudi International, which was formerly sanctioned by the European Tour but will be played next February as an Asian Tour event.
The PGA Tour initially balked at allowing players to participate in the event after the European Tour cut ties with the tournament, but along with the new status on the Asian Tour will come a difficult decision for PGA Tour officials.
A Tour spokesperson told Golfweek that the circuit “does not comment on potential requests for conflicting event releases.”
Tour members are required to obtain a conflicting-event release to play non-Tour events. According to the circuit’s regulations, a player is allowed up to three conflicting-event releases per season.
Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, however, does have a certain amount of discretion to “deny any particular release request if he determines that such a release would cause the PGA Tour to be in violation of a contractual commitment to a tournament sponsor, or would otherwise significantly and unreasonably harm PGA Tour and such sponsors.”
The Saudi International, which was won by Johnson in 2019 and 2021, and Graeme McDowell in 2020, has become the flashpoint for a growing split between the Tour and the start-up Super Golf League, which is also backed by the Saudis.
The SGL has been wooing star players for years and in early 2020 Monahan threatened a lifetime ban for any player who joined the proposed circuit.
According to Golfweek, the list of players who have applied to play next year’s Saudi International are Johnson, McDowell, Abraham Ancer, Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak, who is sponsored by Golf Saudi.