Exclusive: First PGA Tour player seeks permission to play Saudi tournament

A career journeyman has become the first PGA Tour member to apply for permission to compete in a controversial tournament funded by the Saudi Arabian regime in England this summer.

Multiple sources told Golfweek that Robert Garrigus has requested a release from the PGA Tour to play in the LIV Golf Invitational, scheduled for June 9-11 at the Centurion Club in London. PGA Tour members are required to obtain a waiver to compete in events held on other circuits. Such applications must be submitted at least 45 days before the first round of the tournament, which means the deadline for players to request a green light to play for Saudi cash in London is Monday, April 25.

Sources say Garrigus is the only Tour player who has filed for a waiver so far, though others are expected to do so. The Tour must decide on applications 30 days before the event begins, or by Tuesday, May 10.

A spokesperson for the PGA Tour declined to comment on Garrigus or on releases for the Saudi event. Kevin Canning, the agent for Garrigus, also declined comment.

The tournament in London is the first of eight scheduled events announced by Greg Norman, who has been the public face of LIV Golf, an organization financed by the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund. The lucrative tournaments—$25 million purses with $4 million for first place—have been widely criticized as a blatant attempt by the Saudi regime to “sportswash” its human rights abuses.

The Saudis originally planned an 18-event breakaway tour featuring only the best players in the world but that scheme faltered when almost every top player rejected offers to join and pledged to remain on the PGA Tour. LIV Golf has since abandoned any immediate hope of launching a rival league and is instead trying to gain traction by staging individual tournaments, four of which are scheduled in the U.S., the first being July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon.

It’s expected that fields for the LIV Golf events will largely be comprised of journeymen from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour). Norman recently admitted that amateurs may also be invited to compete, and that his strategy is to make elite players jealous at seeing also-rans win enormous sums of money, hoping that envy will eventually draw top-tier talent to his events.

Garrigus, 44, joined the PGA Tour in 2006. He has one career victory, the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in 2010, and has not made the field in a major championship since 2013. He has made just four starts this season, with his best finish a tie for 16th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He last played a full season on Tour in 2017-2018. His last top-10 finish came at the Farmers Insurance Open four years ago. Since then, he has earned $320,597.

In 2020-21, Garrigus played 20 events on the Korn Ferry Tour, recording two top 25s and missing the cut 13 times, ending the season ranked 190th in earnings. He currently has limited status on the PGA Tour as a veteran and past champion. His career earnings on the PGA Tour total $14.9 million.

Garrigus is in the field for this week’s team event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, with Tommy Gainey.