Toronto (Canada) (AFP) -
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Sunday defended his decision to ban players on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, vowing rebel players could not expect to 'free-ride' off loyal members.
In his first public comments since the tour announced suspensions against 17 current or former PGA Tour players for their participation in LIV golf, Monahan said the bans were necessary to protect the interests of the tour.
'It's been an unfortunate week that was created by some unfortunate decisions,' Monahan said in a television interview with CBS on the sidelines of the Canadian Open.
'It's my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans and that's exactly what I did.'
Players who have opted to join the lucrative Saudi-backed series in defiance of the PGA Tour regulations currently have no pathway back to the tour's events.
Asked why LIV golfers simply could not be allowed to play on both circuits, Monahan replied: 'I would answer the question by asking a question. And that is, why do they need us so badly?
'Those players have chosen to sign multi-year, lucrative contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players, over and over again.'
Monahan contrasted that with Sunday's climax to the RBC Canadian Open, where Rory McIlroy was topping the leaderboard in a gripping final round.
'The best players in the world are here, with millions of fans watching,' Monahan said.
'In this game it's true, pure competition that creates the profile and the presence of the world's greatest players.
'And that's why they need us, that's what we do. We're not going to allow players to free-ride off our loyal members, the best players in the world.'
Monahan would not be drawn on whether the players suspended by the PGA Tour could ever return to the circuit.
'We made a decision last week to suspend those players,' he said. 'They're no longer eligible for tournament play. And at this point that is all we're prepared to talk to.
'We'll see how things continue to develop as we go down the road.'
Monahan meanwhile expressed sympathy with families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington who have slammed the decision of players to join the Saudi-funded series.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers involved in 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. Terry Strada, the widow of a 9/11 victim, said in an open letter on Friday that LIV golfers had 'insulted' the memory of loved ones by joining the series.
'I have two families close to me that lost loved ones on 9/11, so my heart goes out to them,' Monahan said.
'I would ask any player that has left (the PGA Tour), or any player that would consider leaving 'Have you ever had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour?''