LIV Golf rebel Martin Kaymer believes golf’s “hypocrites” should go and play on the Japanese Tour if they are unable to stomach taking money from the Saudis after the PGA Tour struck a deal with the Kingdom’s investment fund to merge the sport.
The two-time major winner has also joined fellow multiple major-winner Padraig Harrington in calling for Europe’s LIV Golf rebels to be allowed to play in September’s Ryder Cup, but it is “almost certain” that the regulations will not be changed in time, despite the merger with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
Former world No 1 Kaymer revealed that he followed the likes of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter in resigning from his home circuit after he was hit with a fine believed to be approaching £500,000, as well as a lengthy ban. But by handing in their cards, these former blue-and-gold stalwarts effectively made themselves ineligible for the match in Rome, even if captain Luke Donald wants to name them in his six wildcards.
Yet while Kaymer accepts that, as he returns from a wrist injury, his form is currently nowhere near good enough to warrant a pick regardless, he does believe that Garcia, in particular, would be worthy of his berth, especially as world No 2 Jon Rahm has expressed his desire to reform the successful Spanish partnership.
“Everyone has now come together, right, so let’s show the world that and permit the best players in America to play against the best in Europe,” Kaymer told Telegraph Sport. “I think it would be one of the great Ryder Cups if they made that happen. And why can’t they? They’ve shown with this deal that anything can be done and be done quickly, too.”
These comments chime with those of Harrington who told Telegraph Sport on Friday that the rebels should be “given a kind of clean slate” and that Donald, his successor as skipper, “should now be able to pick his best team”. Kaymer also pointed to the anomaly of US LIV players being permitted to qualify and be picked. “It just makes sense and the fans would love it,” he said.
But a leading Tour figure has bashed down this theory. “Listen, in Tuesday’s announcement, the statement said that nothing will be changed in terms of membership and a route back on to Tour until the end of the season,” the source said. “And Keith Pelley [the Tour chief executive] has made it clear that before anyone gets their card back they would have to pay their outstanding fines and serve the punishment for going against Tour rules and playing in the LIV events without an exemption.
“The Tour was taken to court by the rebels and in that hearing won the right to impose sanctions, which was hailed as a ‘landmark’ verdict. It cost the Tour millions and they have to honour that. There would be an outcry amongst the players who stayed loyal if they were just allowed to swagger back in, as if nothing happened.
“The Tour had its own players meeting on Tuesday and it was just as heated as the one across the Atlantic, with the rank and file telling Pelley that there has to be consequences. There’d be anarchy if he just ripped it all up now, even if it did help the Ryder Cup team.”
Inevitably, this issue has emerged as one the main dilemmas for the Tours since the shotgun wedding was revealed: how to bring the LIV players back into the fold and not upset the superstars who resisted the Saudi shilling.
Jimmy Dunne - the PGA Tour board member and renowned investment banker who was central in bringing Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, to the table with Public Investment Fund governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan - has suggested that the loyalists receive equity in the newly-formed company to breach the deficit.
Dunne also stated that as the CEO of the new company with a majority vote on the board, Monahan has the “authority to determine whether the breakaway circuit will continue beyond this season”. Another high-level Tour official insists that if Monahan does include a team element in the reformed schedules then it will not be known as “LIV” and will be different in format.
Monahan has revealed that all the agreement stipulates is “a commitment to make a good-faith effort to look at team golf and the role it can play going forward”. So it is appearing bleak for the LIV brand and maybe its players as well.
Yet this is contrary to what Kaymer and the other 15 team captains said that they have been told - by Al-Rumayyan, himself. “Yasir rang me on Tuesday and said ‘we don’t know where this is going to go yet’ but congratulated me for making the right choice and trusting the whole product. And I’m very proud of myself that I did that. For PIF to come in now and buy the PGA Tour, support the PGA Tour, surprised everyone I guess.”
In a landscape that remains uncertain and will do until a calendar emerges from the forthcoming exhaustive months of analysis and horse-trading, Kaymer is convinced that Al-Rumayyan’s vision will have a big role. What is certain is that PIF will invest billions into the new conglomerate and Kaymer wonders how certain players will feel about that.
“I’m really looking forward now to the reaction of all the people who said ‘we don’t want to play for blood money… ‘we don’t want to sell our soul’,” he said. “Well now they need to move to Japan [and play on the Japan Tour], in order to stay true to their word.”
Kaymer said he wrestled with the accusations of “sportswashing” before signing on last year and receiving an upfront fee reported to be around $30million. “I think you just need to follow your intuition and what you believe,” he said. “I stood up to my values and stood up to the feeling in my heart. I was brave enough and stood up for myself to a lot of people, also here in Germany who criticised me and gave me ‘s---. Funny enough, they have sent me nice messages [since the announcement]. It’s such a hypocritical world that we live in… so, it’s even more important to make your own decisions. Don’t judge too much because when all is said and done, you might do the same thing.”
Kaymer, 38 , is playing in the US Open, which starts at Los Angeles Country Club, and the 2014 champion is not expecting any animosity in the locker room.
“The players are fine with each other, so I have no worries on that score,” he said. “I guess the officials need to answer a few questions. I do feel a little sorry for the PGA Tour players who trusted everything that was said. But at the end of the day, you know, they will all have a warm meal on their plate.”