Even before it started, the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series reshaped the careers of several high-profile players, costing golfers such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson their relationships with the PGA Tour and some of their sponsors.
A reprisal had been expected from the PGA Tour — and immediately after the inaugural LIV tournament teed off on Thursday, the PGA issued sanctions against 17 players who defected to the new series
The players "are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA TOUR tournament play, including the Presidents Cup," PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a letter to tour members.
The golfers include Mickelson and Johnson, along with other highly ranked players such as Louis Oosthuizen (21), Kevin Na (34), Talor Gooch (35) and Sergio Garcia (57).
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia's wealth, allowing it to lure top players with the promise of windfalls of cash — from eye-popping incentives to millions in prize money and guaranteed payouts.
By playing in the LIV event, the 17 golfers "decided to turn their backs on the PGA TOUR by willfully violating a regulation," Monahan wrote in his letter.
The golfers "made their choice for their own financial-based reasons," and have officially been notified that they're now barred from PGA Tour events, Monahan said.
The PGA Tour's punishments don't affect golf's major tournaments, such as next week's U.S. Open. That's because the majors are operated by their own governing bodies.
LIV's ties to Saudi Arabia's repressive monarchy instantly prompted a strong backlash, because of the kingdom's flagrant human rights abuses.
Critics — and even Mickelson himself — have also noted that U.S. intelligence has concluded that Saudi Arabia's crown prince approved the operation leading to the brutal 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.