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Michigan's two PGA Tour players won't play Saudi-funded rival league

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

We soon will learn the names of the golfers who have signed up to play the rich and rival Saudi league.

But the roster will not include Michigan's two current PGA Tour card-holders, Jackson's Brian Stuard and Traverse City's Ryan Brehm. Both told The News they will not be playing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

"I don't have any plans to play the LIV events," said Stuard, an Oakland alum.

Said Brehm, a Mount Pleasant native and Michigan State alum: "My focus is playing on the PGA Tour."

Brian Stuard needs a big week in Detroit.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series, backed by Saudi Arabia money with World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman as the circuit's front man, will launch June 9 in London, and play an eight-tournament schedule. One of the tournaments is July 29-31 in New Jersey, opposite the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series promises super-rich purses, $25 million apiece, with big payouts for the week's individual and team winners. The tournaments are 54 holes, with no cut.

Still, the series has struggled to attract the biggest names in golf, who are loyal to the PGA Tour — a PGA Tour, of course, whose commissioner, Jay Monahan, has threatened to ban players for playing the rival tour.

LIV Golf Invitational Series told Sports Illustrated earlier this week that 70 players have registered for the inaugural tournament, including 15 of the top 100 in the world golf rankings. No names have been released yet, though Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Kevin Na have been linked to the new tour.

Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion, also had been linked, but then released his summer scheduled on Twitter without including a Saudi stop. He plans to play the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which he's played every year.

More: Mickelson signs up for three events without saying he’ll play

Phil Mickelson on Monday requested a release from the PGA Tour to be able to play the Saudi league, his agent confirmed to media outlets. It was Mickelson's comments for an upcoming book — saying the Saudi league appealed to him, despite Saudi Arabia's long record of human-rights abuses and atrocities — that has sent Mickelson into exile, cost him millions in sponsorship deals and, after seeing the backlash, spurred several of golf's biggest stars to quickly rebuke the Saudi-funded league.

Monday was the deadline to register for the first Saudi event, and a spokesman for Mickelson said he hadn't decided if he will play on the rival tour.

"Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play," the spokesman told ESPN. "Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open."

Mickelson, who hasn't been seen from since his comments went public, also registered to play next month's PGA Championship, where he would be the defending champion, and June's U.S. Open.

Ryan Brehm walks on the 13th hole during the third round of the Puerto Rico Open.

With so few of golf's biggest names showing interest in the Saudi league, Norman and Co. have expanded their net, reaching out to less-heralded PGA Tour players and even Korn Ferry Tours, figuring many would be interested in what could be a quick cash grab. But Stuard, 39, and Brehm, 36, who would figure to be in that target area, are not interested, and would rather play the PGA Tour, which has long been their dream.

Stuard, a winner of the 2016 Zurich Classic, has played on the PGA Tour since 2013, and Brehm just earned his first PGA Tour victory, the Puerto Rico Open in March, to earn full status through the 2023-24 season.

Both plan to play the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club this summer.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984