ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | Pablo Larrazábal, who won twice early this year and has done so seven times in all on the DP World Tour, is in a sorry state. “I am not a LIV person, and I shouldn’t be on the ‘bad list,’ ” he said by way of an unexpected greeting.
When Larrazábal received an invitation (without any millions of dollars thrown in) to play in LIV Golf’s inaugural invitational at England’s Centurion Club in June, he said that he spoke to “the top person” – i.e. Keith Pelley – at the DP World Tour, and that the two of them came to a special arrangement. “He agreed that I could play in the one LIV event if I supported the tour by playing in the Irish Open, the Spanish Open and the Andalucia Masters. I said ‘yes’ to all of that,” Larrazábal said last week before the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he missed the 54-hole cut.
“I had won a couple of tournaments at the start of the season, and when it came to the LIV event, I finished 13th and collected $360,000,” he said. “Since no one had said that I would do better not to accept the prize money, I didn’t really think twice about taking it.”
At least at that stage.
It was at the BMW International Open in Munich, Germany, two weeks later, a tournament which he had won twice previously, that Larrazábal discovered that what he took to have been a “special arrangement” had gone awry. He was still being bracketed with the LIV players and, as a result, he found himself on the receiving end of a wave of hostility from other competitors. “It wasn’t anything they said; it’s what I sensed,” Larrazábal said. “They looked at me funny.”
At the same time, he was getting attacked on social media.
“I was able to explain myself to the other players,” Larrazábal said, “but for as long as I’m on the ‘bad list,’ that’s where everyone else thinks I belong.”
“I have spent a very lonely three months on that ‘bad list.' Only my team and my family understand how tough things have been for me mentally.”
Larrazábal said he made one unsuccessful call after another to the DP World Tour to ask what had happened, and that he made a whole lot more when he discovered that he was not allowed to play in July’s Genesis Scottish Open, which was co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
Then he decided that his fate was all down to the power of the PGA Tour.
“Following on from the start of the ‘strategic alliance’ between PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, I think the PGA Tour forced the DP World Tour to break my special agreement,” Larrazábal said.
“I have spent a very lonely three months on that ‘bad list,’ ” Larrazábal said. “Only my team and my family understand how tough things have been for me mentally.”
LIV Golf has sued the PGA Tour in U.S. federal court, alleging antitrust violations. The PGA Tour, in turn, has countersued LIV Golf. The PGA Tour has banned its players from participating in LIV Golf events and indefinitely suspended violators. The DP World Tour, which initially suspended and fined LIV Golf defectors, has allowed their participation pending a court appeal in the U.K. An arbitration hearing has been scheduled for February.
Following on from a good face-to-face talk with Pelley during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the Spaniard is now hoping to be removed from what he called the “bad list” and declared “clean.”
Some people might feel a tad less concerned for Larrazábal after a remark he made at the start of the season. “If someone gives you some free money to go play in a casino and you have the chance to win $4 million,” he said, “of course you’re going to think about it.”
On the other hand, it is difficult not to feel anything but sorry for Oliver Fisher, a former winner of the Czech Open. The Englishman, who is attached to the Centurion Club where George O’Grady, the former CEO of the DP World Tour (2004-14), served as the club’s first president, was shocked when he found himself on the LIV list. He had been lying fifth on the list of reserves for a DP World Tour event in Sweden when the LIV people asked if he would like to fill an unexpected last spot in their event.
Like Larrazábal, Fisher thought he had cleared it with the DP World Tour and, again like Larrazábal, he has found himself on the same LIV list ever since.
O’Grady, though he will tell you he is aware of Fisher’s case, refused to be drawn on the situation overall.
A spokesperson for the DP World Tour said: “We can emphatically state there was no deal struck with Pablo Larrazábal. He took the decision to voluntarily sit out the two-week suspension placed on him after playing at the Centurion Club without an official release. He chose not to pay his fine, however, and that remains outstanding until the overall legal proceedings reach a conclusion next year. Oliver Fisher was permitted to play at the Centurion Club because his low category ranking meant he could not get into the field for the Volvo Car Scandinavian Masters.
“We would refute the suggestion that either player has suffered in any way. Indeed, Pablo was part of the pro-am in both the Horizon Irish Open and the Made in Himmerland and is also in the pro-am listing for next week’s Acciona Open de España. Oliver Fisher’s current low ranking precludes him from playing in pro-ams right now. Furthermore, due to the decision made by Sport Resolutions UK on Monday, July 4, both players, if their ranking permits, can currently play in any DP World Tour event, picking up both world-ranking points and prize money and now, also, Ryder Cup points.”
Larrazábal vows to do everything by the DP World Tour book, saying: “If I made a mistake in playing in London, I’m sorry for it.”
He is immensely proud of his 15-year career and is looking forward to what will be his 400th DP World Tour event in Dubai later this season.
For now, he is hating all the bickering that is going on about money when so many people in this world are starving.
“The LIV people are degrading our game, and it’s embarrassing to see it happening.”