Greg Norman's staggering move amid controversy around LIV Golf

·5-min read
Pictured left is Greg Norman with LIV Chicago champion, Cameron Smith.
Greg Norman is seen here with LIV Chicago champion, Cameron Smith. Pic: Getty

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman is set to step up his fight for the Saudi-backed series this week when he meets with US lawmakers in Washington DC.

The Aussie golf icon is heading to Capitol Hill later this week for meetings with members of the US congress, where he will attempt to improve LIV Golf's public image.

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Many have accused LIV Golf of 'sportswashing', with Saudi Arabia accused of using the sport to help improve the gulf state's shocking human rights record.

Seen by many as an attempt to improve the image of Saudi Arabia by using high-profile sporting events as a means of distracting from the nation's poor reputation, the LIV series has resulted in a divide among golf's top players and powerbrokers.

Many have found the huge money on offer from LIV difficult to turn down, while others felt it was simply a deliberate attempt to undermine the PGA Tour.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series launched earlier this year and has remained in the news as its increasingly bitter feud with the PGA Tour continues, and more players defect to the rebel circuit.

With much of the criticism centred around the exorbitant sums of money on offer from the seemingly endless well of Saudi funding, Norman has been campaigning hard for LIV Golf's future.

The 67-year-old has frequently criticised the PGA Tour for what he describes as its monopoly on the sport, with hopes this week's meetings with congress can help address many of LIV Golf's concerns.

"LIV Golf is coming to the Hill this week to meet with lawmakers from both parties," LIV spokesperson Jonathan Grella said.

"Given the PGA Tour's attempts to stifle our progress in reimagining the game, we think it's imperative to educate members on LIV's business model and counter the Tour's anti-competitive efforts."

Lawyers for LIV Golf and several of its players have accused the PGA Tour in a federal antitrust lawsuit of improperly suspending members for their involvement in LIV. Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau are among the players involved in the lawsuit, though Mickelson recently said he might opt to remove his name from it.

With LIV Golf players banned from competing in PGA Tour events, many fans would be hoping for a compromise between the warring parties so as to limit the damage already done to the sport.

However, Norman recently turned the blowtorch on the PGA Tour after insisting that his previous attempts to broker peace talks have been ignored.

Seen here, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman addressing media at an event.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman says he no longer has interest in peace talks with PGA Tour officials. Pic: Getty

"That's why we are where we are today," Norman claimed.

"We tried awfully hard, I know I did personally for the past year... when we knew we were never going to hear from them, we just decided to go.

"We have no interest in sitting down with them, to be honest with you, because our product is working."

LIV Golf driving a wedge through the sport

LIV has been intertwined with political issues from the very start, with Mickelson admitting to author Alan Shipnuck in February that Saudi Arabia - whose Public Investment Fund is financing the big-money LIV tour - were "scary mother****ers" with a bad human rights record. The Saudi ties have also caught the attention of Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

"My problem is, you have a billion dollars of Saudi money coming in and essentially buying off some of the participants in the PGA Tour with a direct goal of essentially breaking the back of the Tour," Texas congressman Chip Roy told the Wall Street Journal in July.

Former President Donald Trump has supported LIV in its attempts to rival the PGA Tour. Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey hosted LIV's third event and Trump Doral in Miami will host the season finale.

The Department of Justice also opened a probe into the PGA Tour this year, investigating whether it is trying to act as an illegal monopoly.

Aussie star's Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman are among the most recent defectors to the Saudi-backed breakaway series, with Norman so far unsuccessful in luring fellow Australian Adam Scott across.

With LIV offering US$25 million purses in no-cut 54-hole tournaments, a host of high-profile golfers have signed up, including British Open champion Smith, who was World No.2 when he switched sides earlier in September.

The Aussie joined other major winners such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau with the PGA Tour adopting a zero-tolerance stance, suspending those who defected.

Despite the unprecedented turmoil, Norman rejected LIV as being a "breakaway" league, telling The Australian its "business model from day one was always built around being inclusive".

"It was always an additive to all tours," he said.

"This notion we're trying to destroy tours is not true. The PGA Tour is trying to destroy us, it's as simple as that.

"But the PGA Tour has not sat down and had a conversation with myself or any of my investors."

with agencies

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