Add Scottie Scheffler to the list of prominent PGA Tour players who don’t think members of LIV Golf should be allowed to return as if “nothing ever happened.”
The World No. 1 said Wednesday in a Golf Channel interview that he believes any PGA Tour-Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund merger should include a pathway back for LIV golfers, but not without some sort of penalty.
Scheffler pointed to the “different levels” of defections to LIV over the past two years.
“You had some guys that left our tour and then sued our tour,” Scheffler said in rainy Scottsdale, Ariz., where he is the two-time defending champion of the WM Phoenix Open. “That wasn’t really in great taste.
“Then you had some other guys that just left and they wanted to do something different. Everybody made their own decision and I have no bad blood towards the guys that left. But a path towards coming back, I think it wouldn’t be a very popular decision, I think, if they just came back like nothing ever happened.”
Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy, once the fiercest critic of LIV, recently did a 180 in saying that LIV golfers who wish to return to the PGA Tour should be able to do so without sanction. Scheffler joins a group including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler that have responded saying they aren’t in favor of a “direct” route back for LIV players.
“I think there should be a pathway back for them, but they definitely shouldn’t be able to come back without any sort of contribution to the tour, if that makes sense,” Scheffler said.
The PGA Tour still is in negotiations with the PIF, which financially backed LIV and got several big names to break away from the tour in 2022 and 2023. The PGA Tour suspended those players indefinitely for playing on the LIV circuit, most recently World No. 3 Jon Rahm of Spain, who signed with LIV in December.
Scheffler said he believes “most of the players” who stuck with the tour share his opinion about LIV defectors.
“We remained loyal to a tour, a tour that was loyal to us,” Scheffler said. “I built my entire career here on the PGA Tour and I wasn’t willing to leave it. I dreamt of playing on this tour. Some of the guys that left, maybe that wasn’t for them. But I think that if they want a pathway back, that there should be one, but it definitely shouldn’t just be coming back in the first week they want to come back and play. There should be some sort of caveat to them getting back on our tour.”
As for the tournament at hand, Scheffler is aiming to be the first player to win the same event three consecutive years on tour since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11.
The Phoenix Open has seen many famed repeat winners, from Ben Hogan and Johnny Miller to Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama more recently. But the only player to win in Phoenix three years straight was Arnold Palmer from 1961-63.
“I’m not really thinking too much about the end of the week,” Scheffler told Golf Channel. “I’m just trying to get into the tournament, stick with my normal schedule — just finished the pro-am this morning and then head out and practice a bit this afternoon and then go put my feet up this afternoon and get some rest.
“Any time you can get mentioned in the same breath as Arnie would be really special, but at the end of the day I’m just gonna go out, stick to my routine and my process and try to do the best I can.”