If golf’s new world order creates a path back to the PGA Tour for LIV defectors including Australian star Cameron Smith, it wouldn’t be without penalty for their shift according to world No.1 Scottie Scheffler.
Despite continued speculation about a breakdown in talks between LIV backers the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the PGA Tour after a $1.5bn cash injection from Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of billionaire sports team owners, the idea of reunification remains a significant talking point among players.
Preparing for this week’s LIV event in Las Vegas, Jon Rahm, the tour’s mega-signing in the off-season, even said he was hoping to be back playing PGA Tour events “in the near future”.
“I would certainly love to go back and play some of them,” he said.
That came as a leaked memo from the PGA Tour confirmed that players who stayed loyal would share in $930m in equity grants to be divided among 193 PGA Tour members, with their share determined by on-course achievements.
But while those who have moved to LIV, including the likes of Smith and Masters champ Rahm for nine-figure contracts, have expressed no regret about their shift, the conversation from the best players is now focused on getting them all back on one tour sooner rather than later.
Scheffler believes any PGA Tour-PIF merger should include a pathway back for LIV golfers, but not without some sort of penalty, declaring the way some players departed “wasn’t really in great taste” and any return should come with a “caveat”.
“You had some guys that left our tour and then sued our tour. That wasn’t really in great taste,” Scheffler said at the WM Phoenix Open.
“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.
“I think 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.”
The PGA Tour suspended those players who joined LIV indefinitely, even removing Smith’s carpark at TPC Sawgrass in Florida where the Queenslander won The Players Championship in 2022.
But the acrimony against those superstars who defected has since eased, and the tone around getting them back on the PGA Tour has softened, albeit, as Scheffler said, there has to be some degree of making them accountable.
“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 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.”