PGA Tour's bombshell move as Greg Norman's LIV golf gets underway

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Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, pictured here participating in Greg Norman's LIV golf series.
Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson are participating in Greg Norman's LIV golf series. Image: Getty

The PGA Tour has announced a ban on all players who have teed off in the glitzy launch of Greg Norman's Saudi-backed LIV Invitational Series.

The inaugural and novel LIV event kicked off amid great fanfare in England on Thursday amid controversy surrounding its reported $3 billion funding from Saudi Arabia.

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But within half an hour of the first golfers teeing off, the PGA Tour announced that Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and 15 other PGA Tour members playing in the St Albans event were suspended.

One of the banned players is 42-year-old Aussie Matt Jones, a two-time PGA Tour winner and the top-ranked of the six Australians in the LIV field at No.69 in the world.

"It's not a shock, it's not a surprise," Jones said after AAP broke the news to him after his round.

"I don't think it's good for anyone, it's not good for golf, not good for the PGA Tour and it's not good for us as independent contractors to be told where to play and when to play."

Norman's LIV series is the most lucrative event in golf history, commencing at the plush Centurion Club amid much fanfare on Thursday.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, pictured here speaking with Dustin Johnson in April.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks with Dustin Johnson in April. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Australian legend Norman, LIV's CEO declared: "I'm proud and so happy we've brought free agency to the game of golf."

But news came through within 30 minutes that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had fired off a memo to all members informing them that any participants were being suspended.

The banned players include major winners Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, who'd already informed the PGA Tour of their resignation.

In response, LIV Golf said the ban was "vindictive and deepens the divide between the Tour and its members."

Monahan said players would be banned from playing on all features of the PGA Tour, including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

The breakaway golfers will also be removed from the FedEx Cup rankings and won't be eligible for the FedEx Cup or Presidents Cup.

"These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons. But they can't demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platforms as you," Monahan's memo read.

"That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners."

Mickelson, who previously said he wants to retain his lifetime membership with the PGA Tour, refused to discuss the suspension after his round.

Opinion was heavily divided amongst golf fans after the PGA Tour announced the bans.

Charl Schwartzel leads after first round of LIV event

As the 48-man field set off to compete for unprecedented $35 million riches, former Masters champ Johnson said at the first tee before the 'shotgun' start: "It's a new chapter for the game ... I can't wait to get started."

The 16 three-player groups were taken to their tees in a fleet of London black taxis, with big crowds unfazed by all the controversy over whether the $358 million eight-tournament series was just an exercise in Saudi Arabian 'sportswashing'.

The first round leader was 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, who fired a five-under par 65 to put himself in pole position for the record $5.6 million winner's cheque.

Greg Norman and Dustin Johnson, pictured here on day one of the LIV Golf Invitational - London.
Greg Norman shakes hands with Dustin Johnson on day one of the LIV Golf Invitational - London. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

The six-strong Australian challenge got off to a poor start, with European Tour veteran Wade Ormsby leading the way in joint-16th place after a one-over 71.

If he maintains that position, he will still stand to win $337,000 on Saturday.

Jed Morgan and Kevin Yuan finished the round in 73 and were lying joint 24th, while Jones shot 74 (joint-34th), Travis Smyth 75 (joint-38th) and Blake Windred (78, tied-46th).

with AAP

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