Greg Norman blasts 'bullying' PGA Tour amid $3 billion golf war

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Greg Norman (R) is heading a proposed new Saudi-backed rebel competition to rival the PGA Tour. Pic: Getty
Greg Norman (R) is heading a proposed new Saudi-backed rebel competition to rival the PGA Tour. Pic: Getty

Australian golfing great Greg Norman has taken aim at PGA Tour bosses over their threats to suspend players for life if they join a a Saudi-backed rebel golf league.

The explosive issue came to a head this week after Phil Mickelson announced he was taking a break from golf and issued an apology over comments he made about the PGA Tour.

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At issue was an excerpt of a book author Alan Shipnuck shared online last week, in which Mickelson admitted his concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record before adding: "They're scary mother******s to get involved with."

He admitted he was using Saudi interest in launching a rival league as leverage to get players more money, but insists that his explosive comments were taken out of context.

"We know they killed (Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay," Mickelson is quoted as saying.

"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."

Since those comments, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau joined the growing list of high-profile professionals to announce they would remain on the PGA Tour rather than be swayed to the so-called Super Golf League, headed by Norman and and his LIV Golf Investments.

At the heart of the drama is the threat that any player joining the rebel league will be banned for life from playing on the PGA Tour.

"I told the players we're moving on and anyone on the fence needs to make a decision," PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said after a meeting with players on Wednesday.

He also emphasised that players who sign up for any breakaway tour will lose their PGA Tour membership and should not expect to get it back.

Seen here, Greg Norman, CEO of Liv Golf Investments talks to the media in February, 2021.
Greg Norman says threats of banning players from the PGA Tour if they were to join the Saudi rebel competition are unlawful. Pic: Getty

"All this talk about the league and about money has been distracting to our players, our partners and most importantly our fans," Monahan said.

"We're focused on legacy, not leverage."

However, in a memo sent to professional golfers last week, Norman made it clear that any potential threats of life-time bans from the PGA Tour were unlawful.

“In our view and in the eyes of the law, the PGA Tour’s threats are utterly impermissible under competition and other laws,” Norman wrote in the memo, seen by the Golf Channel.

“Permanently banning from the PGA Tour professional tournament golfers who contract to play professional golf would violate its non-profit purpose and would subject the PGA Tour to possible liability or government action, and could cause it to lose its non-profit status for not operating in accordance with its exempt purpose.

“None of us should stand for these egregious acts of bullying by the PGA Tour,” Norman added.

It has previously been reported that Norman was a war chest of almost $3 billion to try and entice some of the world's best golfers.

While this week's meeting between Monahan and the players had been scheduled weeks in advance, it began just minutes after Mickelson released a statement in which he apologised for his "reckless" remarks about the Saudi overtures.

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The six-times major winner did not mention Monahan or the PGA Tour, which he referred to as a "dictatorship" in explosive comments to Shipnuck, whose biography on Mickelson is due in May.

Mickelson has said he and three other top players paid attorneys to write the operating agreement for a new league in which players would have more control.

Monahan declined to comment when asked if Mickelson had been suspended or faces punishment, citing the tour's longstanding policy of not discussing discipline.

Norman's proposed league took a beating last week when top players including McIlroy repeated their strong support for the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson, pictured here in action at the PIF Saudi International.
Phil Mickelson in action at the PIF Saudi International. (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

While McIlroy referred to the SGL as "dead in the water", Monahan was not so certain while former world No.4 Rickie Fowler admitted he thought the concept wasn't going away anytime soon.

"There is zero complacency here," Monahan said.

"We will continue to talk to the players and continue to listen."

While four-time major winner Brooks Koepka has no interest in the rebel league and thinks most professionals are happy on the PGA Tour, he doesn't think that will stop the SGL leaders from pursuing players.

"Everyone talks about money. They've (the SGL) got enough of it," Koepka said.

"They'll get their guys. Somebody will sell out and go to it."

with agencies

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