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PGA Tour’s hardline LIV Golf stance being put to test

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The PGA Tour has a tee time.

That time is now.

After the considerable and growing noise that the Greg Norman-led LIV Golf International Series has been making as it prepares to begin its first tournament, Thursday outside of London, the silence coming from the PGA Tour is deafening.

Envelopes are being pushed by players. And the PGA Tour, so far, has stood by and watched in silence – although sources have told The Post that disciplinary action could be announced as soon as Thursday by the PGA Tour.

Dustin Johnson, who publicly pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour in February, was the first big domino to fall when he signed a contract with LIV Golf for a reported $ 125 million last week.

Then came Phil Mickelson, who inked for a reported $ 200 million on Monday. Both Mickelson and Johnson are in the LIV field this week.

Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed reportedly also will be making the jump, as first reported Wednesday by the United Kingdom newspaper The Telegraph, but they probably won’t play until the second event, at Pumpkin Ridge outside Portland, Ore., From June 30-July 2. Sources told The Post that DeChambeau signed for $ 100 million.

Jay Monahan and Greg Norman
Jay Monahan and Greg Norman
AP; Reuters

A source familiar with the negotiations told The Post earlier this week that LIV Golf is “very close” to completing a deal with Rickie Fowler. The more top players follow Mickelson, Johnson, DeChambeau, Reed and others to a place the PGA Tour considers the dark side, the more it makes you wonder how many more will follow.

Because there will be more.

And the more players that make the move the more it becomes clear that commissioner Jay Monahan and the powers at the PGA Tour, who are all undoubtedly plotting their next step, are going to have to soften the hard-line stance against players jumping to LIV Golf.

Monahan has been very public and very assertive about his stance against players who opt to play in the Saudi-backed venture, threatening sanctions against them, though not specifying what those sanctions will be.

There’s a belief all that Monahan has been waiting for players to actually tee it up in an LIV Golf event before he dishes out punishment. Some burning questions await when and if the PGA Tour does punish players.

First: What will the sanctions be?

Second, Will the Tour, which as a policy (a foolish one at that) doesn’t publicly announce player fines or suspensions, announce the sanctions?

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Third (and most importantly): Does the PGA Tour have the legal right to punish – and possibly banish – players if they’re considered independent contractors?

The Norman-led LIV group believes it has the answer to that third question, and that the answer is a resounding “no.”

Last fall, at an LIV Golf summit hosted by Norman in Manhattan, I was among a small group of journalists invited to listen to Norman and other key figures involved with LIV Golf. They presented a detailed look at what their plan was for the tournaments and teams as they prepared to launch.

After the meeting, we convened for dinner at a midtown restaurant and I sat across the table from Norman and LIV Golf’s chief attorney, who spoke with absolute certainty that the PGA Tour would not have a leg to stand on in court to prevent players from competing on another tour or to ban them from its tour.

An interesting and ironic element to this story is the fact that years ago, over time, the PGA Tour essentially gutted what was called the European Tour and is now named the DP World Tour.

Because the PGA Tour offered the largest purses and the most prestige and had tournaments that treated the players like royalty, the best players from the European Tour migrated to the United States to play on the PGA Tour.

That significantly weakened the European Tour to the point at which the two tours have since aligned in business – mostly because the DP World Tour needs the PGA Tour.

The obvious negative to this tug-of-war is the division of top players that’s taking place. But the PGA Tour can put an end to that division by not banning the players who opt to play LIV Golf events and allowing the independent contractors to play where they want to play.

There’s a notion that Mickelson, Johnson, DeChambeau and the players who’ve signed on to play LIV Golf events no longer want to be a part of the PGA Tour, but that’s not the case at all. Many have simply made the assumption that they’re no longer welcome to play on the PGA Tour because of the public stance Monahan has presented.

For the good of golf – and isn’t that all of these governing bodies are constantly pushing on us? – it’s time we hear from the PGA Tour. That time appears to be Thursday.

Hopefully, the PGA Tour isn’t late for its tee time.

– Brian Wacker contributed to this report

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