Pádraig Harrington joins fray in critique of divisive LIV circuit

‘Players who haven’t gone but could have, feel the sanctions haven’t gone far enough’

The world of men’s professional golf is in a spin, which shows no signs of finding equilibrium. Not yet at any rate. The latest threat of legal action to the DP World Tour (aka the European Tour) by those who defected to the start-up, moneyed LIV circuit has resulted in a strong pushback from the establishment and from its players, among them Pádraig Harrington.

Speaking at the Horizon Irish Open at Mount Juliet, where he’d shown character to survive the cut with a birdie-birdie finish to his second round, Harrington found himself immersed in the side of golf where talking, rather than the simple art of titanium hitting rubber, remained a focus as the turbulence continued.

DP World’s chief executive Keith Pelley issued a strongly worded statement in response to the threat of legal eagles playing the main shots, after the players who defected — among them, Lee Westwood and Serigo Garcia — sent a letter to him claiming they “cared deeply” about the European circuit.

“Before joining LIV Golf, players knew there would be consequences if they chose money over competition. Many of them at the time understood and accepted that … it is not credible that some are now surprised with the actions we have taken,” said Pelley. He added that if they carded about the tour “some of them could have played in Ireland this week in support of our new title sponsor”.

The sanctions imposed by the DP World Tour on the defectors included fines of more than €100,000 and bans on playing in next week’s Scottish Open (a co-sanctioned event with the PGA Tour), with fines set to increase in the future .

Harrington’s mind has been a whirl for different reasons of late, following his brilliant win in the US Seniors Open last Sunday and then dealing with jetlag and the emotions of that success whilst also endeavouring to be competitive in the Irish Open which he managed to achieve.

Fines and bans

Yet, the Dubliner — albeit surprised that the issue of those who had defected had resurfaced in the way it did — insisted that there was a strong belief among European Tour players that the sanctions on the defectors should have been stronger than the fines and bans imposed.

“From my perspective, from a general perspective, the players who haven’t gone but could have gone feel the sanctions haven’t gone far enough. Hundred per cent … but I wouldn’t want them ever banned from playing majors. I am comfortable that that is their tour [now] and this is our tour.

“Whatever way you want to look at it there is certainly separation and it might take five, 10, 15 years for that to be normalised. Who knows? It certainly won’t be normal for a time yet. But I certainly wouldn’t advocate them not being in the majors. If anything, I think it could make the majors bigger and better, having the best players from all around the place and only playing together in the majors is a good thing. The majors are golf. I never want to see the majors affected. The best players should play,” said Harrington, who used the example of Rory going up against DJ in a major as a case in point for his argument.

And, in putting a positive spin on future outcomes, he added: “I don’t have any problem with the guys who have to play LIV, the make their bed and they lie in it … I am comfortable with them being gone to play there. I have no issues with them, they have made that decision, there is great money there.

“It looks like [LIV] are here to stay. The rest of golf is starting to focus on themselves, it looks like the PGA Tour and European Tour statements are starting to focus on their tours. As far as I am concerned, let LIV go and do their thing. I think it’s good for golf, that competition and other tours, and I think there is room for it too!”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times