ST. ALBANS, England (AP) — Patrick Reed is the latest former Masters champion to sign up to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series in defiance of the PGA Tour and activists who object to the players promoting the kingdom's sporting project.
With Pat Perez also confirmed as joining the breakaway on Saturday, 20 players have now defected from the PGA Tour. The latest announcements came during the final round of the inaugural LIV event at Centurion Golf Club outside London, where Charl Schwartzel of South Africa was on course for a victory that would earn him $4.75 million.
The lucrative rewards for joining the series funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund have not been enough to entice any players ranked in the world's top 10.
Reed, who has won almost $37 million in a decade on the PGA Tour, is ranked 36th. The 31-year-old American's only major win was the 2018 Masters.
Having appeared at three Ryder Cups, where he has been one of the brashest characters on the American team, Reed's decision could see him ineligible for selection in the future.
Reed said he would make his debut on the second stop of the LIV Golf series in Portland, Oregon, on June 30-July 2.
The 46-year-old Perez, who is ranked 168th in the world, said he wants to travel less after 21 years on the PGA Tour. He made no mention on the LIV live broadcast about the riches on offer.
Saudi Arabia's track record of human rights violations has sparked criticism from groups, including Amnesty International, that the country is "sportswashing" its image by investing in signing up sports stars.
For many in the United States, Saudi Arabia will forever be associated with the collapse of the World Trade Towers and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. All but four of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens, and the Saudi kingdom was the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaida and mastermind of the attack.
Terry Strada, the national chairperson of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, has sent a letter to representatives of LIV Golf stars calling on them to reconsider their participation in the series. Her husband, Tom, died when a hijacked plane flew into the World Trade Center.
“Given Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of our loved ones and those injured on 9/11 — your fellow Americans — we are angered that you are so willing to help the Saudis cover up this history in their request for ‘respectability,’” Strada wrote, accusing the players of betraying U.S. interests.
Strada's letter was sent to agents for Reed as well as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na.
“When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit with their whitewash, and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately crave — and are willing to pay handsomely to manufacture,” Strada wrote. “The Saudis do not care about the deep-rooted sportsmanship of golf or its origins as a gentleman’s game built upon core values of mutual respect and personal integrity. They care about using professional golf to whitewash their reputation, and they are paying you to help them do it.”
Victims’ families are trying to hold Saudi Arabia accountable in New York, despite its government’s insistence that any allegation of complicity in the terrorist attacks is “categorically false.”
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