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Ernie Els says the sport is changing – but LIV is not ‘real golf’

There are not many more qualified to speak on the current status of the golf world and how it is evolving than Ernie Els.

During this week’s Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Els is a 4x major champion who has been playing in big time events for more than 30 years. In terms of where the game has been, where it is, and where it’s going, Els is a powerful voice in the sport.

A sport that is clearly in a state of flux and has been for some time now. With a seemingly never-ending battle going on between the PGA Tour, the LIV Tour, the DP World Tour, and a potential merger that nobody appears to know the status of, it’s safe to say that the sport is in a state it has never been in.

LIV Golf, a 54-hole team style format financially backed by the Saudis, has picked off some of the biggest stars in the sport with reported nine-figure contracts including Jon Rahm, Cameron Smith, and Brooks Koepka.

Els however, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011, says he never had an offer from LIV and even if he had, he would not have accepted it.

RELATED: Ernie Els talks career, majors, LIV, and more ahead of Regions Tradition in Birmingham

Not now, and not at any point throughout his career.

“No, I’ve not had an offer,” Els told Yellowhammer News on LIV. “But I wouldn’t have said yes anyway. Listen, I know some of the Saudi guys; they genuinely love the game of golf. But the LIV current format is not proper golf. It wouldn’t have been for me, whatever stage of my career I was at.”

Last year, when news of a potential merger between the PGA and LIV broke and players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour seemingly facing no financial recourse for the money they declined from LIV, Els did not mince words when it came to his thoughts on PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

“If this happened in my day, in my prime, there’s no way he’s around. No way,” Els said of Monahan last July to Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig. “And the board has to change. You do s**t like this, I’m sorry, it’s not right. Talk to us, tell us what you’re going to do, plan on negotiating. Don’t just go rogue as a member of the board and come back with a deal and think we’re all going to say yes? You’re affecting people’s lives. You’re affecting the professional game. It’s just so bad.”

Almost a year later with the merger seemingly on hold, Els says now ahead of the Regions that his thoughts have not changed.

“Obviously I hope they can work out their differences, because this mess is not good for our sport,” he said. “We’ll have to see. But the fact remains, to my mind, the LIV golf format doesn’t work, not in the way they’re playing at the moment. Maybe there’s a place for team golf within the global schedule – maybe put some teams together, play a two-month happy season, so to speak. But the rest of the year, let’s play real golf.”

Last year, Els finished in a tie for second at the Greystone Golf and Country Club. This year’s edition will begin on Wednesday May 8 with The Drummond Company Celebrity Pro-Am with tournament play beginning the following day.

Michael Brauner is a Senior Sports Analyst and Contributing Writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @MBraunerWNSP

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