(Reuters) – Bryson DeChambeau, the former U.S. Open champion who was one of the first big names to sign up for LIV Golf, said he felt “bad” for the players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour after the bombshell merger was announced on Tuesday.
The sporting world was left stunned when the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and rival Saudi-backed LIV circuit ended their bitter two-year dispute and announced an agreement to merge and form one unified commercial entity.
The shockwaves from the deal look set to reverberate for a good while and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has already faced calls to resign at a meeting with players at the Canadian Open in Toronto.
The most aggrieved players are likely to be those, like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama, who turned down eye-watering sums from LIV Golf to remain loyal to the PGA Tour only to see the tours merge.
“I do feel bad for the PGA Tour players because they were told one thing and something else happened, and our side, we were told one thing and it’s come to fruition,” DeChambeau told CNN.
“It does stink a little bit from my perspective that the PGA Tour players are not necessarily winning. I hope they can find a way to make sure that they are valued in the same way that we are over at LIV.
“I think that’ll happen, it’s just going to take some time …”
DeChambeau also defended the backers of LIV Golf and in particular Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) who will chair the board of the new entity.
“What I can tell you is that … Yasir has always been a staunch supporter of golf globally, and wanting to grow the game,” he added.
“That’s been his vision from the start, when we first started talking a few years ago. As it’s come to fruition now, I think this is the best thing that could ever happen to the game of golf.”
DeChambeau deflected a question about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Several advocacy groups released statements criticising the merger on Tuesday.
“I mean look, it’s unfortunate what has happened but that is not something I can speak on because I’m a golfer,” the American said.
Brandel Chamblee, a former professional turned analyst who has been a vocal critic of LIV Golf, said the merger had staggered him but suggested three reasons why it might have happened.
The PGA, he said, may have calculated that protracted legal battles would benefit only lawyers, and also that Saudi involvement with their sponsors and stakeholders had made it difficult for the Tour to maintain the moral high ground.
Lastly, he thought, the Tour might have been attracted by the billions of dollars which will potentially be invested by PIF in the new entity.
“I was hugely disappointed. I think this is one of the saddest days in the history of professional golf,” Chamblee said on the Golf Channel.
“I do believe that the governing bodies, the professional entities, have sacrificed their principles for profit.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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