The PGA Tour has told organizers of the Japan Golf Tour that some of its members who participated in LIV Golf Series events this year or LIV Golf Tour events during the 2022-23 season will be banned from competing in tournaments from PGA Tour, including. the Zozo Championship and the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.
The move helps explain why all four Japanese players who competed in the last LIV Golf Invitational Series event in New Jersey are not in this week’s field outside of Boston.
Yuki Inamori, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Jinichiro Kozuma and Hideto Tanihara played at Trump Bedminster in July and formed an all-Japan team.
Sports Illustrated obtained 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 that explains the decision.
All players who have participated in LIV Golf events to this point “remain ineligible for all events across all PGA Tour sanctioned tours until the end of the calendar year, including the Zozo Championship,” according to the letter.
The PGA Tour had no comment but clarified that the restrictions on LIV players extend to those beyond Japan Tour players and it is not specific to the Zozo Championship.
Here is the letter:
Inamori, 90th in the world, Kinoshita, 119th and Kozuma, 134th, all competed in the Zozo Championship last year. The tournament is an official event on the PGA Tour schedule, played outside of Tokyo and co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO), which nominates 10 of its members to compete 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 is unclear whether his decision was in any part based on the PGA Tour’s stance on Japanese players, which the JGTO said was first brought to his attention on August 22. The JGTO, in its letter to members, said it sought clarification on those who had already competed in LIV events and what it meant for the rest of this year. None of the four players who have competed so far would be allowed to try and qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour, for example.
“If a JGTO member does not participate in any additional unauthorized events during the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season, they would be eligible to participate in the 2023 Sony Open and the 2023 Zozo Championship,” the letter said. “However, if they participate in any further unauthorized events, they will not be eligible for any PGA TOUR sanctioned events through the end of 2023 including the 2023 Zozo Championship.”
None of the four Japanese players have any kind of PGA Tour membership. They all mostly competed on the Japan Golf Tour as well as the Asian Tour.
“We would love for these players to join LIV, but we respect their decision given the unfortunate, anti-competitive threats imposed on them by the PGA Tour,” LIV Golf said in a statement. “The lengths the Tour will go. preventing players from joining LIV is pretty awesome.”
Inamori, Kinoshita and Kozuma played and missed the cut at the PGA Championship this year. Kozuma also missed the cut at the US Open. Inamori won the Japan Players Championship in June while Kozuma won the Token Homemate Cup 2022.
Four other players who competed at Bedminster are not in this week’s field: South Africa’s Hennie Du Plessis and Justin Harding, Australia’s Travis Smyth and Spain’s David Puig. The LIV Golf Invitational Series used various criteria for eligibility along with invitations to fill its fields and all of those players competed on a per-event basis.
LIV Golf last week joined an antitrust lawsuit filed against the PGA Tour originally of 11 players but now there are seven. The lawsuit alleged that the PGA Tour used monopoly power to try to prevent competition and unfairly suspended players.
Those who competed in LIV Golf events were indefinitely suspended. Three of the players in the lawsuit – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – sought a temporary restraining order to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs. It was denied on the eve of the first playoff event.
In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that the PGA Tour is under investigation by the US Department of Justice for possible anti-competitive conduct in response to the threat of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.