PGA Tour star Justin Thomas told backers of the LIV Golf series they should go if they want to

Washington (AFP) - World number one Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas told LIV Golf backers on Wednesday to decide whether or not to stay on the PGA Tour.

While it might be a court fight that ultimately decides who can play where, players preparing for Thursday’s start of the Byron Nelson tournament in suburban Dallas applauded the PGA Tour’s decision to deny releases for members to play in next month’s inaugural LIV event in London.

“If you’re playing here on the PGA Tour, playing in something that could be a rival series, it’s definitely not something we want our membership to do because it’s going to harm the tournament that we have opposite that,” Masters champion Scheffler said.

Opposite the Saudi-backed LIV event from June 9-11 in London, the PGA Tour has the Canadian Open scheduled June for 9-12 in Toronto.

“I’m sure that’s why they did not release the players, because if we have 15 guys go over there and play, that hurts the (tournament sponsor) RBC and the Canadian Open,” Scheffler said.

Four other LIV events are set for US venues, two in July and two in September.

“Why would we encourage our players to get releases for those events when essentially we have all these sponsors that are involved with the tour and are only making it better and better?” asked former Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris.

“We’re trying to promote our best product possible and if you want to be a part of this… then you shouldn’t have it both ways. You have a choice. You really do. You can go if you’d like.”

Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, said Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had informed players what he planned to do.

“I would hope it would deter them from going over there,” Thomas said. “I’m sure there’s a little bit of surprise, but it was nothing off the beaten path that Jay didn’t say he was going to do.

Scottie Scheffler says the PGA needed to deny releases for players to compete in the LIV Golf event in London

“A lot of people are probably like, ‘I can’t believe you did this,’ or, ‘Wow, you went through with it,’ but I mean this is what he said was going to happen all along. And, yeah, it’s one of those things to where he just doesn’t want the competing tour, the back and forth.”

- ‘If you want to go, go’ -

LIV events will have 48-player fields and $25 million purses, much more money than PGA Tour tournaments.

Phil Mickelson, set to defend his title at next week’s PGA Championship, has been a proponent of LIV Golf, although he has not played since controversial comments he made about the Saudi-backed series were revealed in February.

“If you want to go, go,” Thomas said. “There have been plenty of guys that have been advocates of it and have just talked it up all the time and they have been guys behind the scenes that are saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this’.

“My whole thing is ‘Just go then. Stop going back and forth or say you’re going to do this’. Everybody is entitled to do what they want.”

Former world number one Brooks Koepka withdrew from the Byron Nelson on Wednesday, leaving his status for next week’s PGA in doubt.

The four-time major winner, ranked 16th, has not played since missing the cut in last month’s Masters.