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Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas back PGA Tour's decision to suspend players competing in LIV Golf series

The PGA Tour suspended their 17 members who were playing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Centurion Club despite having their releases denied; Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter among the players punished

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Rory McIlroy says he does not begrudge the players that have joined the LIV Tour and conceded he will keep an eye on London

Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have both backed the PGA Tour’s decision to suspend all players competing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent a memo to all members on Thursday afternoon, shortly after play began at the Centurion Club, confirming that every player competing in the Saudi-backed breakaway series were suspended indefinitely from the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter were among the list of 17 players confirmed as suspended, with the statement confirming that those "competing this week without releases are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup".

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Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir has further details as the PGA Tour has suspended all current and future players who have decided to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series

McIlroy said last month he understood why some players could be tempted to switch to the Greg Norman-fronted circuit, having previously described the proposal as "dead in the water", although believes it's right for players to be suspended for teeing it up in England.

Speaking to Sky Sports after his opening-round 66, McIlroy said he did not "envy" the LIV players, and while conceding he would keep an eye on events at the Centurion Club, he reiterated his belief that the PGA Tour is the "best place" to play golf.

"All Jay can do at this point is go by the rules that are in the tournament regulations. He's been very transparent about that from day one. That's what he's doing," he said.

"These guys, whether they did or didn't ask for releases, the guys that asked for them didn't get them… and the guys that just didn't ask are obviously over there.

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Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia explain why they have decided to resign from the PGA Tour, as well as giving their view on the LIV Golf Series

"I guess there are consequences to those decisions, but as I said in my press conference yesterday, the guys in London have to do what they feel is right for themselves.

"I certainly don't begrudge them for being there, I certainly don't envy them, but I've always felt this is the best place to play golf, and I still believe that."

Asked if he would take in any of the LIV Golf action, he replied: "I'm as engaged as everyone else in just wanting to see how it's going, so I'll have a look and see how it's going. Haven't bought any team merchandise yet, but I'll have an eye on how some of the boys are doing over there."

McIlroy added earlier: "I think at this point, Jay (Monahan) has been pretty transparent in terms of he's just going to act within the tournament regulations and the rules that are set for a PGA Tour member," after an opening-round 66 at the RBC Canadian Open.

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Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee heavily criticises the players participating in the LIV Golf Invitational Series

"All he's doing is basically going by the book. I think that the majority of the membership that are here this week and that haven't gone and played elsewhere really appreciate that.

"So I think he's done the right thing because these guys have broken rules and done things outside of the tournament regulations, and because of that, there are going to be consequences, I guess."

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Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter are among the higher-profile golfers in the 48-man field this week now suspended, with Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood all in the group to have resigned from their PGA Tour membership.

When asked about the suspension of players, Thomas said: "I'm pleased. I think anybody that's shocked clearly hasn't been listening to the message that Jay (Monahan) and everybody's been putting out. They took that risk going into it, whether they thought it was a risk or not.

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Highlights of the opening round of the Canadian Open from the St George's Golf and Country Club

"Like I've said the whole time, I have great belief and great confidence in the PGA Tour and where we're going and continuing to grow to, and those guys just aren't going to be a part of it.

"They [LIV Golf] are obviously throwing so much money at people that it's very hard to turn down. I don't care what you say in terms of that people play for different reasons. It doesn't matter who you are or what it is, everything has a number.

"They're reaching that number for some people, and I hope that they don't get others. But I think a very strong core group of us is very stable and firm in our position, and I hope that it stays that way."

Coltart: How long is the ban? Forever?

Sky Sports' Andrew Coltart:

"We knew there was going to be a ban, that was decided way back in March when more of these proceedings were discussed and talked about. We knew players were facing the possibility of suspension," he said.

"Now we know that's true, I think a lot of people were expecting a length of that ban and how long that was going to be. Years? Months? Decades? Forever? At the minute it seems like forever, but there's a hint that there's a timeframe attached to it. I think that it's fair to say that a lot of people would have expected a number to coincide with that statement.

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Nick Dougherty and Andrew Coltart assess whether the suspension of the players on the LIV Tour is a big enough deterrent to prevent others following in their footsteps and wonder how much golf will transform in the future

"From that [PGA Tour] statement, I don't see that necessarily deterring a couple of the other players who have signalled their intent to go there. I would have thought that maybe something slightly stronger may have impacted the decisions going forward with some of these players.

"The thing that's also slightly perplexing me at the minute is the strategic alliance, as I would have expected an announcement from the DP World Tour that would align itself with the PGA Tour. The more time that passes by and we don't hear, it's only going to raise a few more question marks.

"It depends which side of the fence you sit on here and it's going to get passed either side of that fence for some time so, unfortunately, we're heading into the direction of the courts and that's not going to benefit anybody."

'We're watching a sports-washing operation'

Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee said LIV Golf was about "greed and sports-washing", and believes those who compete will become a "depreciating asset".

"I think this is a sad day in the history of the game of golf. Let's be really clear about what we're watching today: we're not watching a golf tournament; we're watching a sports-washing operation," said Chamblee.

"If you're just a casual golf fan, by my count there are 14 names you might recognise. Those 14 players, their average world ranking is little over 100, so you're certainly not watching the best golfers in the world.

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Sky Sports' Andrew Coltart believes it won't be long until bigger players' heads are turned as they see lower-ranked players picking up big money on the LIV Golf Tour

"You shouldn't be under any pretence that you're watching the best golf or the best golfers in the world today. What you're watching is pure and simple: it's a sports-washing operation.

"The foundation of the PGA Tour is built upon philanthropy; it looks after the players. It has health benefits, pension, safety nets and it has Tours for the beginning, the prime and the end of players' careers.

"Let's look at LIV Golf. What's its foundation? It's based upon greed and sports-washing. It buys these players and, make no mistake, it will make these players as a depreciating asset. They will be expendable; they will be tossed aside when they have no further use to LIV Golf.

"It's a sad day as we watch these players destroy their reputations and self-emulate all that they've stood for in the game of golf."

Watch the RBC Canadian Open throughout the week live on Sky Sports Golf. Live coverage continues on Friday from 12.30pm via the red button on Sky Sports Golf and for free on the Sky Sports Golf YouTube channel.

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