Scottie Scheffler believes that LIV defectors should be given a ‘pathway’ back to the PGA Tour but insisted that their U-turn shouldn’t come without some form of penalty.
Following Jon Rahm’s landmark £400million move to the Saudi-backed golf league last month, there has been plenty of debate among some of the sport’s leading figures on whether LIV players should be allowed to re-join the original tours, once the landmark merger between the three organisations is finalised.
‘I think there should be a pathway back for them [LIV defectors] but they definitely shouldn’t be able to come back without any sort of contribution to the tour, if that makes sense,’ Scheffler said to the Golf Channel on Wednesday, ahead of the WM Phoenix Open.
The shock merger between the three rival tours was announced last summer and is set to be finalised in April. As part of that framework agreement, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that officials would ‘work cooperatively to establish a fair and objective process for players who desire to reapply for membership with the PGA Tour or DP World Tour.’
Scheffler, meanwhile, stated that he personally had no issue with the players who left the tour, but the 2022 Masters champion added that a decision for LIV Golfers to return without some form of sanction would not be seen favourably.
Scottie Scheffler believes that LIV defectors should be given a pathway back to the PGA Tour
But the world No 1 insisted that LIV players looking to return to the PGA tour should only be able to return if they made some sort of ‘contribution’
Scheffler (R) who teamed up with LIV Golf star Brooks Koepka (L) stated that the defectors should not be able to come back ‘like nothing ever happened’
‘We remained loyal to a tour, a tour that was loyal to us,’ Scheffler, who paired up with LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka at last-year’s Ryder Cup, 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 I think that if they want a pathway back, that there should be one, but 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.’
His comments come after both Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have also recently spoken out on the matter.
The Northern Irishman, who won at the Dubai Desert Classic in January, interestingly softened his stance on whether the PGA Tour rebels should be punished on their return to the original tours.
One of the breakaway tour’s biggest critics, McIlroy had previously claimed that LIV had ripped the game apart. But after his Ryder Cup team-mates Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton joined the tour, the four-time major winner seemingly made a U-turn on his previous position admitting he regretted being too judgemental of those who had joined LIV.
LIV Golf’s shock merger with the PGA Tour DP World Tour could allow stars to return to play on the original tours
Jon Rahm recently joined LIV Golf in a stunning £400m deal, headlining LIV’s new team Legion XIII
Tyrrell Hatton followed his Ryder Cup team-mate to join the Saudi-backed golf tour
‘I think life is about choices,’ said McIlroy ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week.
‘Guys made choices to go and play LIV; guys made choices to stay here. If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back. I mean… I think it’s hard to punish people.
‘I don’t think there should be a punishment for — obviously I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties.
‘It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game. That’s my opinion of it. So, to me, the faster that we can all get back together and start to play and start to have the strongest fields possible, I think is great for golf.’
Justin Thomas, meanwhile, believes otherwise. The two-time PGA Championship winner offered a more stern response to the question this week, noting the sacrifices those loyal to the PGA Tour had made in choosing not to join LIV.
‘I would say that there’s a handful of players on LIV that would make the TOUR a better place, but I’m definitely not in the agreement that they should just be able to come back that easily,’ Thomas said to reporters.
‘I think there’s a lot of us that made sacrifices and were very — whether it’s true to our word or what we believe in or just didn’t make that decision, and I totally understand that things are changing and things are getting better, but it just would — I would have a hard time with it, and I think a lot of guys would have a hard time with it, and I’m sure we don’t need to convince you why we would have a hard time with it.
Rory McIlroy (L) has made a U-turn on his previous criticisms of LIV Golf, while Justin Thomas (R) believes LIV defectors should not be able to come back without a penalty
‘I think there’s a scenario somewhere, whatever it is, down the road of some kind of version of some guys being back, but when and what that is, I have no idea.’
Rahm and Hatton’s team Legion XIII claimed victory on their debut at LIV’s season curtain rasier last weekend in Mayakoba, while Joaquin Niemann won the individual tournament. They’ll travel to Las Vegas for the second event of the season in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, on the PGA Tour, World No 1 Scheffler is out to defend his WM Phoenix Open title this weekend at TPC Scottsdale. Should he win, he’ll be the first player since Steve Stricker won his third John Deere Classic in 2011 to win three consecutive tournaments.
Jay Monahan has stated that ‘officials would work cooperatively to establish a fair and objective process for players who desire to reapply for membership’ after the merger
Scheffler will look to claim his third successive title at the WM Phoenix Open this weekend
But Scheffler remained adamant that LIV players should be penalised if they do return to play on the PGA Tour.
‘You had some guys that left our tour and then sued our tour. 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 a path towards coming back, I think it wouldn’t be a very popular decision, I think, if they just came back like nothing ever happened.’