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Two-time Open champion Ernie Els has fired an extraordinary broadside at PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan over his handling of the circuit’s proposed merger with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Monahan has been widely condemned for agreeing to a partnership with the PIF having previously denounced the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League as an “irrational threat” whilst dishing out indefinite bans to PGA Tour players who aligned with it.

Some players have called for Monahan – who has returned to work this week after taking time off to deal with an undisclosed health condition – to resign from his post.

Speaking after completing his first round at The Open, former world No.1 Els was asked for his take on the state of the PGA Tour’s leadership… and he didn’t hold back.

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“If this happened in my day, in my prime, there’s no way [Monahan’s] around,” the South African told Sports Illustrated. “No way. And the board has to change.

“You do shit like this. I’m sorry, it’s not right.

“Talk to us, tell us what you’re going to do, plan on negotiating. Don’t just go rogue as a member of the board and come back with a deal and think we’re all going to say yes?

“You’re affecting people’s lives. You’re affecting the professional game. It’s just so bad.”

Dismissing LIV Golf as a “circus”, Els added: “Team golf doesn’t work. It works maybe in a two-month, three-month happy season. Get these guys together, get teams together and play around the world. But then play real golf.

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“That’s what this thing is all about. That’s what I prided myself on. Like Tiger [Woods] and some of these guys. Playing that type of golf. Getting yourself into majors and grinding.

“And for these guys [the PGA Tour leadership] to go out there and do what they did, just off the cuff, as a board member, do a deal, nobody knows. The commissioner is supposed to be the guy running our tour. These board members make a deal or a so-called deal and with no input from the players.

“It’s an absolute shambles. I’m worried.”

On the playing front, Els – a winner of the Claret Jug in 2002 and 2012 – began his 32nd Open (his 106th major in all) with a 75 to lie nine shots off the early pace set by his amateur compatriot Christo Lamprecht and England’s Tommy Fleetwood.


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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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