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LIV Golf “not trying to destroy the PGA Tour”, says Greg Norman

CEO of Saudi-backed circuit insists golf market is big enough to accommodate multiple tours.

3 August 2022 Ed Dixon

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  • Norman calls PGA Tour a “monopoly” that “want to shut us down”
  • Two-time Major winner bemused by sponsors cutting ties with rebel players
  • PGA Tour announced record US$428.6m prize purse this week in latest attempt to retain golfers

Greg Norman, the chief executive of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, has branded the PGA Tour a “monopoly” that wants to “shut us down” in the latest war of words between the two rival competitions.

Norman’s comments coincided with the PGA Tour announcing a record US$428.6 million prize purse for the 2022/23 season, an increase that will look to deter more players from joining LIV Golf, which is offering US$405 million in prize money across its 14 events.

The PGA Tour has also confirmed plans to a series of limited field, no cut events which mirror the LIV Golf model and an enhanced bonus player pool as it seeks to keep its top stars.

LIV Golf has applied for its events to offer Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, but its application appears unlikely to succeed at this stage, meaning the series’ rebel players will struggle to earn a place on the start list for major events in the future.

Speaking to Fox News, Norman was unmoved in his plan to shake up the sport, despite significant backlash due to LIV Golf’s links to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF) and accusations of sportswashing.

Though top players such as Rory McIlroy have stuck with the PGA Tour, others including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson have made the multi-million dollar switch to LIV Golf. The defectors have lost several lucrative sponsorship deals, but the decision from brands has left Norman nonplussed.

The two-time Major winner said it “blows my mind” that sponsors have dropped golfers for joining LIV Golf because of its Saudi ties, despite having themselves done billions of dollars of business in the country.

“The PGA Tour, I think, has about 27 sponsors who do US$40 billion-plus worth of annual business on an annual basis in Saudi Arabia,” Norman said.

“Why doesn’t the PGA Tour call the CEOs of [these businesses] saying that we can’t do business with you because you are doing business with Saudi Arabia? Why are they picking on the professional golfers? The male professional golfers,” he continued.

Norman added that the PGA Tour was unwilling to accept another elite-level US golf circuit over fears they will lose significant market share.

“It is a monopoly,” the 67-year-old said. “They just want to shut us down whatever way they can.

“So they will use whatever leverage point they can.”

Despite this, Norman insisted the PGA Tour’s stance, nor criticism from US golf fans, would not phase LIV Golf in its expansion efforts.

 “[The PGA Tour is] not going to shut us down because the product is speaking for itself,” he said. “We have almost on a daily basis, we get calls every day from players [saying] ‘I want in’.

“The list gets longer and longer for the players who want to come in. Which again, is a testament to the right white noise.”

Norman maintained he was not bothered by the backlash, describing LIV as “the future of golf”. He added that he sees LIV Golf as an opportunity to boost the men’s and women’s game, as well as provide a new way for younger people to engage with the sport.

“I just love the game so much and I want to grow the game of golf and we at LIV see that opportunity not just for the men but for the women,” said Norman. 

“We at LIV see it for NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] and younger generations. We at LIV see it as a pathway to opportunities for the kids to experience a new out there.”

He continued: “CSR [corporate social responsibility] programmes, education programmes, all the stuff that’s out there that we want to get involved with for golf and growing the game of golf.”

Even amid the ongoing tussle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, in addition to the DP World Tour, Norman believes the trio can coexist and that golf is big enough to accommodate them all.

“Our model is 100 per cent built around the golf ecosystem from the ground up,” he said. “We are not trying to destroy the PGA Tour or the European Tour. We are there to work within the ecosystem to show that it’s a big enough space. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry.”

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