Greg Norman lands first big name in $3 billion golf furore

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Pictured here, Aussie golf great Greg Norman smiles during an event.
Greg Norman's Saudi-backed rebel golf competition has reportedly landed its first major player. Pic: Getty

Greg Norman's Saudi-backed breakaway golf league has landed its first major name, with American Robert Garrigus reportedly asking for a release from the PGA Tour so he can play in the rebel competition's first event.

Norman has been digging his heels in over the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, after recently announcing plans to press on with the breakaway competition.

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Now it appears the Aussie golfing legend has finally landed his first big name, after several of the game's biggest stars had previously distanced themselves from the rebel tour.

According to Golfweek, 44-year-old Robert Garrigus has requested a release from the PGA Tour so he can play in the opening LIV Golf Invitational event at England's Centurion Club from June 9-11.

Members of the PGA Tour are required to obtain waivers if they wish to play in other tournaments that are held in the same week as those on the main tour.

With the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open scheduled for the same week as the LIV Golf Invitational, it's emerged that Garrigus has applied for such a waiver.

The Golfweek report indicates that Garrigus is the only current PGA Tour player to have applied for a waiver to compete in the Saudi-backed competition, but it's expected more players are set to follow suit.

Seen here, Robert Garrigus plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the Puerto Rico Open in 2021.
Robert Garrigus has reportedly asked for a PGA Tour waiver so he can play in Greg Norman's LIV Golf Invitational in June. Pic: Getty

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 UK's Telegraph recently named two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, longtime PGA Tour player Kevin Na, and Ryder Cup stalwarts Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as other top players that are likely to join the series.

Poulter, Westwood and Watson - all of whom are active on social media - have not publicly disputed the reports.

Na later commented to insist he was yet to sign anything.

Top players have distanced themselves from SGL

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.

To put that into perspective, the recent Masters tournament had a US$15 million ($AUD 20 million) total purse, the highest ever for the event.

Norman's LIV Golf venture was also dealt a major setback due to the Phil Mickelson saga - with the six-time major winner involved in the project 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 declined to speak publicly about the controversy.

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