Jack Nicklaus: I don’t even consider LIV Golf players ‘part of the game’

Jack Nicklaus: I don’t even consider LIV Golf players ‘part of the game’

Jack Nicklaus has launched the latest attack in the never-ending civil war between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

The 83-year-old golf legend, who has largely remained quiet about the Saudi-backed rebel tour since its inception, was asked about the field at this week’s Memorial Tournament — which takes place at Muirfield Village, the golf club he built and has hosted an event on the PGA Tour every year since 1976.

“They’re all here,” Nicklaus said of the golfers who will play in this week’s tournament.

“For all intents and purposes, the top players in the world are here.”

Nicklaus is correct that all of the top PGA Tour players (minus Tony Finau and Max Homa) will be playing the Memorial, but there are a number of players at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings — including two in the top 20 (Cameron Smith and Brooks Koepka) that have won two of the last three majors — that are banned from PGA Tour events since joining LIV.

When asked whether he was disappointed not to have those guys in the field, Nicklaus was blunt.


Jack Nicklaus plays a ceremonial shot at The Masters
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“I don’t even consider those guys part of the game anymore,” Nicklaus said. “I don’t mean that in a nasty way. This is a PGA Tour event and we have the best field we can possibly have for a PGA Tour event for those who are eligible to be here. The other guys made a choice of what they did and where they’ve gone and we don’t even talk about it.”

Koepka and Smith are just two of the high-profile former PGA Tour golfers to defect to LIV over the past 18 months.

Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson has become arguably the second face of the Saudi-backed circuit behind commissioner Greg Norman, who accumulated 20 PGA wins in his career.


Brooks Koepka holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2023 PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2023 PGA Championship
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Major champions Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau (who won the Memorial in 2018), Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed are among the other notable defectors.

One can argue that LIV has struggled to make an impact as a standalone golf tour, with its viewership numbers on The CW consistently getting demolished by even the lowest-caliber PGA Tour events.

Still, Koepka and Smith remain among the most recognizable golfers in the world – and just this month, Koepka won the PGA Championship after finishing second in the Masters.


Cameron Smith plays a shot during a LIV Golf event
Cameron Smith plays a shot during a LIV Golf event
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Nicklaus did say he congratulated Koepka after his win at Oak Hill and that many LIV golfers are still members at his Bears Club in Florida.

“There were certain players that [joining LIV] was probably the right thing for,” Nicklaus said. “It probably spurred the PGA Tour, I don’t think there’s any question about that, either, to move it to greater heights. But it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for what my legacy was. Obviously, I pretty much started what the Tour is out here.”

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