NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Paul Casey is the latest player to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series and will make his debut later this month at the third event in New Jersey.
Casey, 44, a 15-time DP World Tour winner from England who has played on five Ryder Cup teams, is ranked No. 26 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He gives LIV Golf 22 of the top 100 players in the ranking.
He has been battling a back injury this year and it is unclear if he will play in the British Open in two weeks. Casey missed the Masters, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open. In fact, he has not played since the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in March.
Casey was outspoken in 2019 about not playing in the original Saudi International tournament, then sanctioned by the European Tour. He cited his then-association with UNICEF for skipping the tournament.
“It just didn’t sit well with me,’’ Casey said at the time to the Independent newspaper. “I’ve not talked too much about it and I’m not sure I want to, but certainly signing a deal and being paid to be down there... I would be a hypocrite if I did that.
“Anybody who says sports isn’t political, that’s rubbish. Sport is very political. I’m glad I took a stance, more so if it highlights the issues within the region, especially next door in Yemen. I’ve seen the numbers. In Yemen, 22 million people are facing starvation, 11.5 million of the kids. I didn’t want anything to do to get in the way of a great organization like UNICEF.’’
Casey, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has won three times on the PGA Tour, later changed his mind. After skipping the Saudi event in 2019 and 2020, he has played it each of the past two years.
“This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly,’’ he said prior to the 2021 tournament. “I wasn’t comfortable going in the past, but I have always been open-minded and willing to learn. I believe sport has the power to affect change. I’ve listened to the Saudi’s commitment to this and their vision for the future.
“They have successfully hosted two professional ladies tournaments, which shows that Golf Saudi have been plans for professional golf, but more so for grassroots and the next generation.’’
After several delays in naming players, LIV Golf announced an eight-tournament series this year. Earlier this week, LIV officials said they would advance to their 14-tourament, 12-team league format in 2023, with the likelihood of the first tournament to be played in March.
The LIV organization and its players have received considerable pushback from those who believe they should not be associated with Saudi Arabia, due to its human rights abuses and its purported role in the 9/11 attacks.