PORTLAND (REUTERS, AFP) - Americans Pat Perez and Patrick Reed on Tuesday (June 28) said the PGA Tour had only itself to blame for losing players to the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Speaking ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Portland tournament at Oregon's Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Perez and 2018 Masters winner Reed ripped into the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, and said the blame for their departure lay at the feet of the golf organising body.
"Monahan just shut it out from the start. Didn't want to listen, didn't want to take a meeting," said Perez, a 46-year-old, three-time PGA Tour winner.
"They didn't listen to the players. Somehow, the tour, they keep talking about, 'Oh yeah, we work for you, we work for the players.'
"But it's the opposite. Seems like we work for them. We don't have a say in anything."
Earlier this month, the PGA Tour suspended members who joined LIV Golf, with Monahan saying they had "decided to turn their backs" on the tour.
Asked if the tour could have done anything to keep them, Reed responded: "Listen to the players for once."
"We should be able to do whatever we want, we're independent contractors," added Perez. "The (PGA Tour) has tried to strong-arm us all year and come with bans and suspensions and all that, and how'd that work? Look how many guys are here. That didn't work at all."
LIV Golf participants have faced a barrage of criticism from fans and fellow golfers over Saudi Arabia's human rights record.
Saudi Arabia's government denies accusations of human rights abuses.
Players said a smaller schedule, only eight events this year, and richer purses were major reasons they made the jump to LIV Golf.
"This group has provided me an opportunity to play golf and have a different schedule," said Perez. "That's my only concern."
With Portland the second of eight events that will offer up purses totalling US$255 million (S$353.8 million), LIV promises its competitors more money with far fewer tournaments on the calendar.
Perez said at his age, after decades on the road missing time with his family, getting the call from LIV was like"winning the lottery".
"I'm a 30- to 33-week guy every year I've done it," he said."And now I don't have to."
Four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, who has fought through knee, hip and wrist injuries of late, said the lighter schedule of LIV appealed to him. There are eight events in the inaugural season, with plans to expand to 10 next year.
"What I've had to go through the last two years on my knees, the pain, the rehab, all this stuff, we realised you need a little bit more time off," said Koepka, who is 32. "I'd be the first one to say it's not been an easy last couple years and I think having a little more break, little more time at home to make sure I'm 100 per cent before I go play in an event and don't feel like I'm forced to play right away."
Koepka had been making his own schedule with the PGA Tour. He has not competed in a non-Major since March.
He also said he has not given up his PGA Tour card just yet.
"I wanted to spend more time with my children," said 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed. "I wanted to be a dad. And to have an opportunity where I can play with some of the top players in the world.
"The reason why we're able to do that is because our purses are higher."
Meanwhile, Bryson DeChambeau says he understands criticism of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series over human rights issues, but said that people need to "move on" from past "bad" Saudi actions.
Asked about concerns over the new circuit's financial backers, the 28-year-old American said people need to look at the good things LIV Golf could bring.
"I understand people's decisions on their comments and whatnot. But as it relates to me, I have made my own decision," DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion, said.
"Golf is a force for good and I think as time goes on, hopefully people will see the good they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish rather than looking at the bad that has happened before.
"I think moving on from that is important and going and continuing to move forward in a positive light is something that could be a force for good for the future of the game."
It could cost top players their chances to compete in some Majors after this year, if the tournaments follow the PGA Tour in banning LIV talent.
"When it comes to the Majors, we don't really know where they all stand," Reed said. "Having a green jacket, I would think I'd be able to play there for the rest of my life. At the end of the day, that's going to be up to them."
He also noted the PGA Tour's plans to boost prize money at some events in 2023 and the launch of three new PGA events with big prize money.
"Seeing how miraculously the purses all of a sudden went skyrocketing back up on the PGA Tour - it just shows that they obviously believe that this is not only a true threat, but a great tour as well if they're going and copying what we're doing," Reed said.
Koepka accepts his fate whatever Major organisers decide.
"I made a decision," he said. "I'm happy with it, and whatever comes of it, I'll live with it."
The PGA Tour also announced on Tuesday an increased partnership with the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, which will increase some purses overseas and allow the top 10 players to earn PGA Tour cards for the following season.