Greg Norman rejects allegations over $260 million golf controversy

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Greg Norman, pictured here at the Honda Classic Pro-Am in 2019.
Greg Norman in action at the Honda Classic Pro-Am in 2019. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

Greg Norman has spoken out amid backlash over a new 10-tournament series on the Asian Tour, insisting it is not a "direct attack" on the PGA Tour.

The Aussie golf legend has been named as the CEO of LIV Golf Investments (LGI), a newly formed company backed by the Private Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

A company press release last week said Norman's appointment will "set in motion a number of momentous developments for professional golf worldwide".

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Norman said the investment of at least $260 million in prize money over the next 10 years "is only the beginning" amid rumours that he will also become the commissioner of a new Saudi-funded breakaway golf league.

But when asked if the plans were intended as revenge against the PGA Tour after it rejected his bid to establish a World Golf Tour in 1994, Norman told Australian Golf Digest: "No, it's not that way at all.

"I can categorically say this is not a direct attack on the PGA Tour. It's for the betterment of the game of golf, pure and simple.

"There's been a lot of commentary about this being all about me getting even with the Tour. This idea has been around for a long time."

The "strategic alliance" signed between the PGA Tour and European Tour in November of 2020 was widely seen as a response to the threat posed by potential breakaway leagues.

The PGA Tour later instituted a $40 million ($A54 million) 3Player Impact Program to reward its most popular stars.

The PGA Tour are also reported to be considering a series of autumn events with big prize money, no cuts and appearance money based on FedEx Cup standings.

"Isn't that their fiduciary responsibility, to be doing that every year?" Norman added. 

"Shouldn't that be the precedent they set, rather than being reactionary to somebody else's proposal?

"If that story is indeed true then it's great news that the PGA Tour is doing that, truly it is. 

"It tells you that maybe, just maybe, this whole LIV Golf Investments project is the competitor that's strong enough to show the world that there are two avenues you can take (in professional golf).

"Who knows, maybe there are three avenues or even four? I don't care. All I know is, if you have a good, solid business plan and you can present it and execute it in the best interests of the game ... hallelujah!"

Greg Norman and wife Kirsten Kutner, pictured here at OMEGA House in London in 2012.
Greg Norman and wife Kirsten Kutner at OMEGA House in London in 2012. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

Backlash over Greg Norman's deal with Saudi Arabia

The new events will be played across Asia, the Middle East and Europe and will join established Asian Tour tournaments to comprise a 25-event season from 2022.

Norman and the PIF have copped backlash over Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record.

"Whether or not this is the harbinger of a future Saudi-backed Golf Super League, it's yet another example of Saudi Arabia spraying its money around in an attempt to sportswash its appalling human rights record," Amnesty International UK's chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said.

"It's no coincidence that Saudi Arabia's aggressive move into sport - with major boxing bouts, glitzy golf tours and new football club ownership - has come at a time when Saudi human rights defenders have been jailed, when Saudi missiles have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, and when Jamal Khashoggi was hacked into pieces in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"Sportswashing wasn't invented by Saudi Arabia but under Mohammed bin Salman the country is now almost without equal in its brazen efforts to use the glamour and razzamatazz of sport to rebrand itself and distract attention from its human rights record.

"Golfers tempted to play in these tournaments ought to take the time to consider the dynamics of sportswashing and how they might break its spell by speaking out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia."

with AAP

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