Mid-February saw allegations that Bryson DeChambeau had been given a nine-figure offer to leave the PGA Tour as rumours about which players would be joining the new league financed by Saudi Arabia ran rampant. He informed his teammates twice that he was leaving the tour, according to the No Laying Up podcast: once in January and once in February. On February 14, DeChambeau disputed that on social media, calling the reports “inaccurate.” A week later, following the publication of the Fire Pit Collective’s article on Phil Mickelson in which he referred to the Saudis as “scary mothers,” DeChambeau issued a second statement indicating his intention to continue playing on the PGA Tour… with a proviso.
He was not alone; Dustin Johnson had recently renewed his commitment to the PGA Tour, and there was a brief period when it appeared that the Mickelson fiasco may completely derail the LIV venture.
We already know how it turned out; DeChambeau signed a contract worth more than $125 million with LIV Golf on June 10 and competed in his inaugural tournament in Portland early in July.
A fascinating part of DeChambeau’s transition from the Tour to LIV Golf can be found in the 105 pages of the antitrust complaint he and ten other golfers have now filed against the PGA Tour. The text of Item 166 is as follows:
LIV Golf’s ability to sign enough top-tier professional golfers to fill out their League was significantly impacted by the Tour’s threats of penalty and career-ending consequences. Some athletes (including Plaintiff DeChambeau) were compelled to publicly declare their allegiance to the Tour despite having previously secured contracts with LIV Golf. Other players who had previously expressed a general willingness to sign all of the agreements with LIV Golf notified the company that they were no longer able to do so and instead publicly declared their allegiance to the Tour. Players that were eager to join LIV Golf notified LIV Golf that they were regretfully unable to do so in light of these threats. A rival tour without player support would be incapable of challenging the PGA Tour on the competitive front, just as Commissioner Monahan had foreseen in his 2020 Memorandum describing the PGA Tour’s strategy to combat a new entrant.
This almost proves that DeChambeau had already signed a contract with LIV Golf when the Mickelson scandal broke in late February. Along with Johnson and others, he was undoubtedly alarmed by the scandal, but it now seems that his public pronouncements about sticking with the Tour were a precaution against the business’ demise. He had already signed a contract with LIV Golf, which was a hedge against the reality of what was really going on behind the scenes.
Although he wasn’t alone, as stated in the complaint text above, it appears to demonstrate that DeChambeau’s protestations regarding “inaccurate” reports and his dedication to the PGA Tour were never sincere, and that even as he issued those contradictory statements, his true intention was always to join LIV Golf as soon as it was safe to do so.