The PGA Tour has informed Japan Golf Tour organizers that any member participating in this year’s LIV Golf Series events or the 2022-23 LIV Golf Tour events will be banned from PGA Tour events, including Zozo Championship and Korn Ferry Tour qualification race.
The move helps explain why all four of the Japanese players who played in the last LIV Golf Invitational in New Jersey didn’t show up this week outside Boston.
Yuki Inamori, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Jinichiro Kozuma and Hideto Tanihara played at Trump Bedminster in July and formed an all-Japan team.
Sports Illustrated Got a copy of the letter the Japan Golf Tour sent to its members this week. In the letter, the JGTO cites correspondence with the PGA Tour explaining the decision.
To date, any player who has played LIV golf “remains ineligible for all events on all PGA Tour-sanctioned tours through the end of the calendar year, including the Zozo Championship,” the letter said.
The PGA Tour did not comment, but clarified that the restrictions on LIV players extend to players other than Japan Tour players and are not specific to the Zozo Championship.
Here is the letter:
World No. 90 Inamori, No. 119 Kinoshita and No. 134 Ozawa all participated in last year’s Shozo Championships. The event is an official event on the PGA Tour schedule, held outside Tokyo and co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO), which has designated its 10 members to participate in the event.
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Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama won the Zozo Championship last year and is expected to defend his title in October. The 2021 Masters champion, who also won the Sony Open earlier this year, has long been the subject of speculation about LIV Golf. He told The Associated Press at the Tour Championship that he would not be joining LIV Golf.
It was unclear whether his decision was based in any part on the PGA Tour’s stance on Japanese players, which first came to its attention on Aug. 22, according to the JGTO. In its letter to members, the JGTO said it seeks clarification for those who have already participated in LIV events and what this means for the rest of the year. For example, none of the four players who have played so far have been allowed to try and qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour.
“If JGTO members no longer participate in any unauthorized events during the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season, they will be eligible for the 2023 Sony Open and the 2023 Zozo Championship,” the letter said. By participating in any further unauthorized events, they will be ineligible for any PGA Tour-sanctioned events until the end of 2023, including the 2023 Zozo Championship.”
None of the four Japanese players have any PGA Tour memberships. They spend most of their time on the Japan Golf Tour and the Asian Tour.
“We would have liked these players to join LIV, but we respect their decision given the unfortunate, anti-competitive threat the PGA Tour has posed against them,” LIV Golf said in a statement. Preventing players from joining LIV is amazing. “
Inamori, Kinoshita and Kozuma played in this year’s PGA Championship and missed the cut. Kozuma also missed the cut to the U.S. Open. Inamori won the Japan Players Championship in June, while Kozuma won the 2022 Token Homemate Cup.
Four other players at Bedminster this week were not present: South Africa’s Henny Duplesis and Justin Harding, Australia’s Travis Smith and Spain’s David Puig . The LIV Golf Invitational Series uses a variety of eligibility criteria as well as invitations to fill its field, all of which are played on a per-event basis.
LIV Golf joined an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour last week that was originally brought by 11 players but is now seven. The suit alleges that the PGA Tour used monopoly power to try to thwart games and unfairly suspend players.
Those who have attended LIV golf events have been suspended indefinitely. Three of the players in the lawsuit — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — filed for a temporary restraining order to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs. It was rejected on the eve of the first playoff game.
In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating whether the PGA Tour conducted potential anticompetitive behavior in response to threats at the LIV Golf Invitational.