LIV Golf’s newest member on backlash for leaving PGA Tour: ‘I hate being hated’
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Harold Varner III is one of latest golfers to move from the PGA Tour to the LIV Golf Invitational Series, and though he expected backlash from fans about his decision, it still hurts.
“Who likes to be hated? It’s terrible,” Varner said Wednesday ahead of LIV Golf’s Boston tournament via the Washington Post. “I hate being hated. I’d rather not even be known than be hated.”
Varner said that he was thinking of his son when he made the decision to sign his lucrative contract with the Saudi-funded tour, saying his boy will have “a life I could have only dreamt about growing up.”
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“For a kid that grew up where I grew up, it was an opportunity for me to just make sure my kid never would be in that situation ever, and that means the world to me,” Varner said.
Golfers who have moved to LIV Golf, which includes Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and this week’s newcomers, Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann, have all heard their fair share from fans.
While some just brush it off and pay no mind, Varner is the exact opposite.
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“I purposely read them all,” Varner said. “Everyone says, ‘Don’t get on social media.’ That’s stupid. I’m not ashamed of being Harold. I’m ashamed that we don’t spread love.”
No love will be spread next week in London at the BMW PGA Championship where PGA Tour and DP World Tour players will see their former colleagues who are now with LIV Golf for the first time.
DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley admitted to a “strong opposition” against LIV golfers from playing in the tournament, and said no golfer from that tour will be featured in the TV groups.
“They will not be given any on course competitive disadvantage – i.e. unfavorable tee times – but they will not be required to play in the pro-am on Wednesday and will not be in TV featured groups,” a memo read, via the Golf Channel.
LIV Golfers were also told not to wear any branded apparel while playing.
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“Out of respect for our broadcasters and your fellow competitors we would kindly ask you to consider not wearing LIV-golf apparel,” a separate memo via The Telegraph said.
Other worries for LIV golfers stem from the Official World Golf Ranking system, which might exclude those on that tour from future majors.
Varner played in four of them this year for the first time, making the cut in three. And though he loves being able to perform on that high-pressure stage, he has other things on his mind.
“I think it’s way cooler making sure my kid doesn’t have to worry about anything,” he said.
“I think it’s very easy to get in a situation where you do what everyone else says you should do. I don’t know, I just sat there — I think it’s pretty bad when my wife is like, ‘F— everybody. Do what you want to do.' And I was like, ‘That is so cool.'”
Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t held back his thoughts on why he wouldn’t join the LIV Golf team, said “it’s going to be hard for me to stomach” next week in London.
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“If you believe in something, I think you have to speak up, and I believe very strongly about this. I really do,” he said Sunday. “I hate what it's doing to the game of golf. I hate it. I really do. Like it's going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth in a couple of weeks' time and seeing 18 of them there. That just doesn't sit right with me.”