'Doesn't matter': Greg Norman's defiant act after $3 billion snub
Aussie golfing icon Greg Norman is digging his heels in over the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, after announcing plans to press on with the breakaway competition.
According to news reports, Norman is preparing to announce a roster of players that includes several notable names.
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Norman is pressing forward with the venture despite the intense public criticism of Phil Mickelson's connections to the project, and indicated to The UK's Telegraph that he will be formally announcing "marquee names" that will join the tour in the coming weeks.
The British report names two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, longtime PGA Tour player Kevin Na, and Ryder Cup stalwarts Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are likely to join the series. (Poulter, Westwood, Na and Watson, all of whom are active on social media, have not publicly disputed the report.)
Norman's Super Golf League (SGL) has a reported war chest of around $3 billion to try and entice some of the best players and establish itself as a legitimate rival to the PGA Tour.
The SGL was dealt a massive blow last month when some of the world's top players committed their futures to the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy declared the breakaway competition was "dead in the water".
However, Norman has remained bullish and insists that the new competition will speak for itself, regardless of which stars commit to the SGL.
“Quite honestly, it doesn't matter who plays, we're going to put the event on,” Norman told the Telegraph.
“There's a $4 million first prize. I hope a kid who’s 350th in the world wins. It’ll change his life, his family’s life.
"And then a few of our events will go by and the top players will see someone winning $6 million, $8 million, and say, ‘Enough is enough, I know I can beat these guys week in, week out with my hands tied behind my back.’”
For comparison, Scottie Scheffler took home US$2.7 million ($AUD 3.6 million) for winning the Masters, with money undoubtedly LIV Golf's biggest temptation for players.
The eight-event tour will begin this summer at the Centurion Club in England. Future events are scheduled for Portland, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok and Jeddah; other locations include Trump Bedminster in New Jersey.
The Centurion event is slated to have a US$25 million ($AUD 33 million) purse for a 48-player field, and other tournaments will have similar bounties.
For perspective, last week's Masters had a US$15 million ($AUD 20 million) total purse, the highest ever for the event.
Phil Mickelson controversy a setback for SGL
Mickelson had been connected to the LIV venture until his comments about the tour's Saudi backers became public.
“They’re scary [expletives] to get involved with,” Mickelson told veteran golf reporter Alan Shipnuck.
“We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
The barrage of criticism that followed those remarks drove Mickelson into hiding; he did not play in the Masters and has not made any public comments in months.
At the same time, multiple top names actively distanced themselves from the endeavour, including Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson.
Tiger Woods proclaimed himself loyal to the PGA Tour.
Norman acknowledged that the Mickelson controversy was a setback, but contended that the project is still rolling forward.
“We’ve respected the Masters and let it go off, but now our journey is finally coming to fruition —for the players, not for me,” he said.
“Their rightful place to have what they want. That’s why they are still very, very, very interested. We have players signed, contrary to the white noise you’re hearing out there."
The Centurion Club event is scheduled to take place in June, one week before the US Open.
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