Pádraig Harrington says sanctions on breakaway LIV Golf players should be tougher

Harrington surprised at threat of legal action by rebel players, but says they should be entitled to play in majors

Pádraig Harrington has expressed surprise that those players who have defected from the DP World Tour to the start-up LIV Golf Series have reacted with the threat of legal action to the fines and bans imposed on them.

“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. The European players would feel the sanctions haven’t gone far enough but I wouldn’t want (those who left for LIV) to be ever banned from playing majors.

“I am comfortable that that is their tour 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.

However, Harrington also made the case that the LIV breakaway players should be fully entitled to continue to play in all four majors where the best players in the world can all compete, providing the example of those four majors being the only time that golf fans would see the likes of Rory McIlroy competing against Dustin Johnson.

The newly crowned US Senior’s Open champion’s comments came at the Horizon Irish Open at Mount Juliet where he rebounded from a double-bogey with a birdie-birdie finish for a 71 for a midway total of three-under-par 141 that looked set to ensure he would survive on the cutline.

Harrington’s comments came following the issuing of a statement issued by the DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley in response to a letter sent to the tour by players who had defected from the tour to join the Saudi Arabia moneyed LIV series.

“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. Indeed, as one player named in the letter said in a media interview earlier this year; ‘If they ban me, they ban me.’ It is not credible that some are now surprised with the actions we have taken,” said Pelley.

In the statement, he added:

“Furthermore, given how deeply these players say they care about the DP World Tour, perhaps some of them could have played in Ireland this week in support of our new title sponsor, in particular one player who gave us a signed commitment to play at Mount Juliet.

“With that player currently in action at Pumpkin Ridge, you can imagine the allegation in the letter that we are in the wrong, is hard to accept.

“We also take great exception to an allegation made near the end of the letter which states we are somehow playing ‘second fiddle’ to the PGA Tour. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“We held a player meeting in Ireland on Tuesday where we outlined in great detail all the many benefits of our expanded relationship with the PGA Tour.

“One of those is an unprecedented 10 cards on offer to the PGA Tour, cards that many of the players named in this letter desperately wanted to attain in the early stages of their careers. Why now be critical of those trying to do the same?”

Harrington, a three-time Major champion as well as holding Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy last year, said he would remain friends with those players who had moved to LIV but argued that they must have known sanctions were inevitable and claimed that most tour members would have preferred even stronger ones than those imposed.

Spain’s Jorge Campillo shot a second round 68 for an 11-under-par 36-holes total of 133 to claim the clubhouse lead, a shot clear of Poland’s Adrian Meronk.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times