Despite the announcement that a rival professional golf league’s inaugural event is set for the same week as the RBC Canadian Open, tournament organizers aren’t leaking oil.
The LIV Golf Invitational — an eight-event, $255-million (US) series funded by the government of Saudi Arabia’s controversial Public Investment Fund — is scheduled to start June 9 to 11 at the Centurion Club in London. That’s the same time as the return of the Canadian Open after two years of cancellations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re a business and they have a business model that needs to work for them and their investors, but you can’t compare the two tournaments,” Mary DePaoli, RBC chief marketing officer and executive vice-president, told the Star. “Our objective is not to be distracted by any outside stimuli. We are focused on making this the world-class event we know that it is and will continue to be.”
Greg Norman, a two-time Canadian Open winner, is the commissioner of the new league. According to Golf Digest, each of the first seven events will have a purse of $25 million (divided among individuals and teams) while the final event will offer $30 million to the top performers. Each event will be 54 holes, with a team portion, and utilize shotgun starts.
Four events will take place in the United States, two directly competing with PGA Tour events: the John Deere Classic (June 30 to July 2) and Rocket Mortgage Classic (July 28 to 31).
There are also tournaments scheduled for Portland, Ore., Bedminster, N.J., Boston, Chicago, Bangkok and, of course, Saudi Arabia. There are no events in Canada, although one Greater Toronto Area course did confirm to the Star that the rival league had been in touch.
No golfers have confirmed they will play in the rival series so far. The PGA Tour, led by commissioner Jay Monahan, has said golfers won’t be allowed to return to the tour if they chose to play the new series.
“Our PGA Tour rules and regulations were written by the players, for the players. They’ve been in existence for over 50 years. I’m confident in our rules and regulations (and) my ability to administer them, and that’s my position on the matter,” Monahan said last week at The Players Championship.
Set for Toronto’s St. George’s Golf and Country Club from June 9 to 12, DePaoli confirmed Rory McIlroy will return to defend his 2019 title. Dustin Johnson, ranked No. 10 in the world, will also play, she said, with more names to be announced in “the coming weeks.”
No golfers who originally committed to the Canadian Open have backed out, DePaoli said, adding that discussions with golfers and their agents started in late 2021, with a big push at the Genesis Invitational in mid-February.
“From our standpoint, our tournament has never been stronger,” said DePaoli. “We feel as if we have outstanding support from the PGA Tour, but also natural support from the players to come and play our tournament. We’re not looking in the review mirror. We’re very focused on the future of this tournament.”
The Canadian Open is one of the oldest professional golf events in the world, starting in 1904. It was the only North American PGA Tour event to be cancelled twice during the pandemic.