9 players who changed their minds about LIV Golf: "I'm obviously not going!"

Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Harold Varner III, Cameron Smith, Pat Perez, Henrik Stenson, Joaquin Niemann and Paul Casey are just some of the players who went back on their word about LIV Golf.

Ben Smith's picture
Fri, 23 Sep 2022
9 players who changed their minds about LIV Golf: "I'm obviously not going!"

The LIV Golf Invitational Series has no doubt had a huge impact on the world of professional golf, upsetting the status quo. 

Phil Mickelson claimed the PGA Tour would never be the same again as he urged their commissioner Jay Monahan to enter peace talks. 

Peace talks - at this point - seem unlikely, considering Greg Norman's LIV have already pinched some huge names from the established, American circuit.

Related: Louis Oosthuizen might have LIV Golf buyer's remorse

Publicly, there has been a lot of nastiness. Heaven knows what has been said behind the scenes. Justin Thomas, also a staunch defender of the PGA Tour, previously admitted he never thought he'd never lose as much sleep as he has "over this freaking tour". 

Despite managing to sign some huge names, it's clear that not everyone was a fan of the LIV Golf series, including players who are now on their roster. 

Way back in February, Rory McIlroy made the bold claim that Norman's series was "dead in the water" as a number of players seemed to follow him in expressing their commitment to the PGA Tour. 

McIlroy then followed that remark with: "I just can't see any reason why anyone would go."

How times have changed. That comment has not aged well and over the following months the Northern Irishman - egg firmly on his face - faced the media expressing his surprise as more and more players made the leap. 

GolfMagic decided to take a look nine players who went back on their word...

Scroll down to see what they said, and when they said it...

Brooks Koepka

The American was previously firm in his support for the PGA Tour, pledging his allegiance. 

What he said:

"Everyone talks about money. They've got enough of it. I don't see it [LIV] backing down; they can just double up and they'll figure it out. They'll get their guys. Somebody will sell out and go to it."

When he said it:

23 February 2022

When he signed for LIV Golf:

LIV trolled the PGA Tour by announcing that he was a signee during commissioner Jay Monahan's press conference at the Travelers Championship.

Monahan began speaking to the media on 22 June at 1.00pm. Koepka was announced at 1.06pm.  

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

"Opinions change, man"

Bryson DeChambeau

DeChambeau released a statement pouring cold water on rumours he was telling his fellow pros he had played his last PGA Tour event.

He called reports he was joining LIV Golf "inaccurate". 

What he said: 

"While there has been a lot of speculation surrounding my support for another tour, I want to make it very clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I."

When he said it:

20 February

When he signed for LIV Golf: 

DeChambeau was announced as a LIV Golf signee during the broadcast of their curtain-raising event at Centurion Club in June. He made his LIV debut at their second $25m event in Portland, Oregon at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. 

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

"One of the things for me it was a personal business decision. For me I run and operate my golf as a business as well as wanting to be one of the better players in the world.

"Second off, it was going to give me more resources and opportunities to reinvest in my local community, in Dallas, and back at my original home in California where I can do things for junior golf tours, improve my foundation, and also build the multi-sport complex I'm going to build here shortly in Dallas, and also give me more time to rest, the ability to have weeks off and recover my body in the way I want to so that I can be prepared to give it my all when it comes time, not be depleted every week and continuing to get depleted over the course of time.

"So that was one of the things. And then the last part is I saw that first event in London and how much fun everybody was having. That was exciting to me. And I wanted to be a part of something like that."

He later thanked Tiger Woods for ultimately creating LIV Golf. 

Dustin Johnson

Johnson has always confirmed that he was open to the idea of LIV Golf, but he released a statement - through the PGA Tour - expressing that he was committed to staying. 

What he said:

"I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour. I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family."

When he said it:

20 February 

When he signed for LIV Golf:

"At that time I was committed to playing the PGA Tour. I'm very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it's done for me. I've done pretty well out there for the last 15 years," Johnson said at LIV Golf Centurion. 

"This is something that I thought was best for me and my family, and I'm very excited about playing. Obviously this is the first week and yeah, it's something exciting. It's something new. Yeah, I think it's great for the game of golf. That's why I'm here."

He previously brushed off criticism about playing for LIV, claiming he was more motivated than ever. 

Harold Varner III

Varner claimed after speaking to NBA legend Michael Jordan about the potential move he was out.

What he said:

"I'm obviously not going. I've spoken with [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay [Monahan], I've spoken with a lot of people I look up to and it just wasn't worth it to me for what it was worth. That's pretty simple."

When he said it:

16 June

When he signed for LIV Golf:

30 August

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

Varner explained that dealing with the blowback after confirming his signature was terrible in his first press conference as a LIV player. 

"Who likes to be hated? It's terrible. I hate being hated. I'd rather not be -- not even be known than be hated," he said. 

"So yeah, it was terrible. I just hate to be hated because you're doing what's best for you and whenever someone else is doing something that's best for them I'm like, how can I help, how can I help you make a better decision, why are you making this decision?" 

He added: "Your opinion of me may have changed because of this announcement. No lie, that'll be tough thing to deal with. But I haven't changed - I'm still me. I promise you that."

Cameron Smith

Smith told the media earlier this season he was ready to remain on the PGA Tour.

But after winning the 150th Open at St Andrews, his value quickly rose and things changed very quickly as he accepted a huge deal to join LIV. 

Smith is arguably the biggest capture for LIV so far. 

What he said:

"I think that the PGA Tour is the pinnacle of golf, and that's where I want to be.

"I want to be competing against the best guys in the world, and if they're playing over here, then I want to be playing against them."

When he said it:

17 March 2022

When he signed for LIV Golf:

30 August 2022

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

"[Money] was definitely a factor in making that decision, I won't ignore that or say that wasn't a reason. It was obviously a business decision for one and an offer I couldn't ignore," Smith said. 

"The biggest thing for me joining is [LIV’s] schedule is really appealing. I'll be able to spend more time at home in Australia and maybe have an event down there, as well.

"I haven't been able to do that, and to get that part of my life back was really appealing. I've lived over here seven years now, and I love living in the US, but just little things like missing friends' weddings, birthday parties and seeing your mates having a great time at rugby league games has been tough."

Smith was later caught laughing at a Rory McIlroy meme during a LIV practice round.

Pat Perez

Perez posted a comment on his Instagram on February 28, writing "f--- no" when asked if he was "getting on the Saudi train". 

What he said:

Perez also labelled LIV "kind of a joke". He also told the media: "The biggest question is there's no guarantee with that tour. 

"The PGA Tour’s going to be around a long time. If 60 guys leave, there's going to be 60 more guys that come up and fill those spots. 

"There’s a line from here to Florida of guys who want to play on the PGA Tour, so it’s not a lack of players.”

When he said it:

February 2022

When he signed for LIV Golf:

June 2022, before LIV Golf Portland at Pumpkin Ridge 

What he said when signed for LIV Golf:

Perez explained that he felt like he had "won the lottery" when he signed for LIV Golf. 

He dismissed accusations of sportswashing, taking a dig at PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan in the process. 

"I know everybody's talking about sportswashing and all of that, but Jay goes everywhere on a G4 [private plane].

"What do you think that f------ thing's filled up on? It's not solar. 

"It's not a Tesla, last time I checked. It's gas. You think he's worried about the gas bill? I know they don't have their own f------ oil field in Jacksonville."

He added: "We should be able to do whatever we want. We [the players] are independent contractors. The 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." 

Perez said Monahan didn't listen to the players, adding: "Somehow the tour keeps talking about, 'Oh, yeah, we work for you, we work for the players, we work for the players.'" 

"It's the opposite. Seems like we work for them. We don't have a say in anything."

Henrik Stenson

Stenson was stripped of the Ryder Cup captaincy after joining LIV Golf, and he was fuming about it

He reportedly was given an ultimatum by Ryder Cup Europe HQ; either retain the captaincy or join LIV Golf. Not both. 

What he said:

"When I started out as a professional golfer, it was beyond my wildest dreams that, one day, I would follow in the footsteps of legends of the game such as Seve [Ballesteros] and be the European Ryder Cup captain," he said on the day he was unveiled as Ryder Cup Europe captain.

"But today proves that, sometimes, dreams do come true."

When he said it:

15 March

When he signed for LIV Golf:

July 2022, before LIV Golf Bedminster

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

"As many of you will have already seen, unfortunately my decision to play in LIV events has triggered Ryder Cup Europe to communicate that it is not possible for me to continue in my role as Ryder Cup captain," Stenson said in a statement. 

"This is despite me making specific arrangements with LIV Golf, who has been supportive of my role as captain, to ensure I could fulfil the obligations of the captaincy. While I disagree with this decision for now it is a decision that I accept."

He added: "Clearly, a part of my decision to play in LIV Golf events has been commercially driven but the form, schedule and calibre of player were also significant factors. 

"I am committed to growing the game and using the game as a force for good." 

Stenson took a pop at Ryder Cup Europe after claiming his maiden LIV Golf win. 

Joaquin Niemann

Niemann poured cold water on rumours linking him with a switch to LIV Golf at the U.S. Open in June. 

Then he said he was undecided

What he said:

"Nothing to tell from me [on LIV Golf]. I want to do my best to beat all these guys. They're still here and as long as they're here [PGA Tour], I'm not going anywhere. No chance."

When he said it:

June 2022

When he signed for LIV Golf:

August 29, before LIV Golf Boston

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

"The team aspect was the main thing that motivated me. Obviously financial, financially was nice, too.

"But bringing the team format out and being able to represent that team, being a captain I think is a new chapter of my life and I'm really excited about that, and do the best I can as I always try to do when I'm on the golf course and off the golf course. I just try to always be the best I can on everything." 

Paul Casey

Casey used to work as an ambassador for UNICEF and revealed he would not tee it up in golf events in Saudi Arabia due to the ethical implications. 

He would have appeared to have dramatically changed his tune in recent years. 

What he said:

"I would be a hypocrite if I did that. Anyone who says sport isn’t political, that’s rubbish. I’m glad I took a stance, more so if it highlighted the issues within the region especially next door in Yemen.

"I've seen the numbers. In Yemen, 22 million people are facing starvation, 11.5 million of them kids. I didn't want anything I do to get in the way of a great organization like UNICEF."

When he said it:


When he signed for LIV Golf:

July 2022, before LIV Golf Bedminster

What he said when he signed for LIV Golf:

Casey said he had visited Saudi Arabia on numerous occasions since making those comments. 

He said he had "seen change" and told media that he played golf with two women when he visited the kingdom. 

"There's many places on the planet that I've been to, that I've been paid to go to, which I'm not sure I can say the same thing in terms of their trajectory," Casey said.

"But I can honestly look you in the eye and say that I see a trajectory, a positive trajectory in the kingdom, and it was a really good experience that I've had when I've been there, and I hope it continues."

At the LIV Golf Bedminster press conference, Casey said: "There's been a lot written. The focus always seems to be money; let's be honest. But for my decision, and I can't speak for the other guys, there's a lot more to this.

"As a guy who's played multiple tours through the years, the toll that's taken -- let me be clear, my desire for competition has not waned in any way. If anything it's probably higher than it's ever been, and my desire to play the best golf I possibly can in the latter half of my career is still there.

"But yeah, there's a lot more to my decision of sitting here than just a financial opportunity and less golf. But I was very aware of the ramifications of making this choice. The PGA Tour is something -- it was a goal of mine to play on the PGA Tour, and it's been an incredible journey.

He added: "But I'm also a guy who's won on multiple tours, I think five: Australasian, Asian, Korean, European Tour and PGA Tour.

"I'd love to add a LIV victory to that, as well. I've never pigeonholed myself. I think one day maybe sit down and talk to some guys about the complexities of the decision I had to make and why I did it, but I'm very, very excited to be sitting here right now trying to get another victory on another tour."

Casey also slammed the DP World Tour for their handling of LIV Golf. 

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