Scottie Scheffler says he will not stand by and watch members of LIV Golf waltz back onto the PGA Tour like "nothing ever happened". The world No.1 believes any merger between the rival tours should see those who defected to the Saudi-backed league have a pathway back to the tour but not without some form of penalty.
Rory McIlroy was once one of the fiercest critics of LIV Golf but has softened his stance. The former world No.1 has been vocal about wanting to see LIV golfers who wish to return to the PGA Tour do so without sanction.
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But Scheffler says there have been "different levels" of defections to LIV over the past two years and therefore there can't be a blanket rule. "You had some guys that left our tour and then sued our tour," Scheffler told the Golf Channel.
"That wasn't really in great taste. Then you had some other guys that just left and they wanted to do something different. Everybody made their own decision and I have no bad blood towards the guys that left. But ... it wouldn't be a very popular decision if they just came back like nothing ever happened."
Scheffler joins a group of PGA Tour players including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler that have opposed a direct route back for LIV players who chose to leave the tour. "There should be a pathway back for them, but they definitely shouldn't be able to come back without any sort of contribution to the tour, if that makes sense," Scheffler said.
Scheffler believes "most of the players" who stuck true to the PGA Tour share the same thoughts as him. "We remained loyal to a tour, a tour that was loyal to us," Scheffler said.
"I built my entire career here on the PGA Tour and I wasn't willing to leave it. I dreamt of playing on this tour. Some of the guys that left, maybe that wasn't for them. But if they want a pathway back ... it definitely shouldn't just be coming back in the first week they want to come back and play. There should be some sort of caveat to them getting back on our tour."
PGA Tour in talks with LIV Golf over merger
The PGA Tour is currently still in negotiations with Saudi Arabia's public investment fund (PIF), which financially backs LIV about a potential merger. The Saudi-backed league managed to persuade several top golfers to leave the tour in 2022 and 2023, which resulted in the players being suspended indefinitely by the PGA Tour. Most recently they signed world No.3 Jon Rahm in December.
Since the acquisition of Rahm, a consortium of US-based sports franchise owners called the Strategic Sports Group (SSG) made a $A2.3 billion investment to become minority owners of PGA Tour Enterprises, the tour's new for-profit wing. That deal, however, did not include the PIF.
If a deal between the PGA Tour and the PIF is unable to get over the line, it is hard to see a pathway for golf to reunify after the vindictive beginning of the rival league. However, if there comes a time when LIV Golf members look to rejoin the PGA Tour, Scheffler believes most of the Tour members will join him in calling for penalties to be imposed on those players.
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