Greg Norman claims Tiger Woods turned down a "mind-blowingly enormous" deal to be the biggest drawcard in the controversial LIV Golf invitational series, set to get underway this week.
Phil Mickelson has confirmed he will play in the first event of the series at Centurion, just outside of London, but the 51-year-old still intends to feature at the upcoming majors this year.
Dustin Johnson headlined the entrant list for the opening event starting at Centurion on Thursday, but Mickelson was a surprise omission from the initial entry list for the Saudi Arabia-funded competition.
However, Mickelson has reportedly agreed to a deal worth around $US200 million ($AUD278 million) to be the most high-profile golfer competing in the rebel series.
According to Aussie golfing legend Norman - who is the CEO of LIV Golf - Woods rejected an eye-watering offer that puts Mickelson's reported deal to shame.
“We’re talking about high nine digits,” Norman told The Washington Post about the deal Woods rejected.
If Norman is telling the truth, that means Woods turned down close to US$1 billion. Even for the highest earning golfer in PGA Tour history, an offer like that has to at least make him pause for a second.
Norman has reportedly been given a $3 billion war chest for the LIV series, to try and lure some of the best golfers in the world across to the competition.
Woods has played just twice since his horrific car crash over a year ago, most recently at the PGA Championship — though he withdrew before the end.
Just before play kicked off at Southern Hills, Woods addressed Mickelson and the LIV Golf series.
“Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour — and committed to the legacy of the Tour — have pushed back against,” Woods said.
“But as we all know, as a professional, we miss him being out here. I mean, he's a big draw for the game of golf.
"He's just taking his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back... I have not reached out to him. I have not spoken with him. I have a completely different stance on [the PGA Tour operations] … and so no, I have not reached out to him.”
Phil Mickelson joins other big names in LIV series
As well as Mickelson and Johnson, LIV Golf has recruited some big names, including Kevin Na - who officially resigned from the PGA Tour last weekend.
Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood are also among the high-profile names set to feature at the three-day event that will have 12 teams and 48 players.
Mickelson was met with widespread condemnation after criticising the PGA Tour earlier this year, for which he apologised and vowed to take a step back from the game – even missing the defence of his US PGA Championship last month.
His comments on LIV Golf were also met with significant backlash after he said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights", but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".
But Mickelson, who once again reiterated his apologies for his earlier comments, broke a lengthy silence by confirming he will play at the inaugural LIV Golf event.
"I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers," the American said in a statement.
"I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course.
"I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me. I would like to think that I have given back as well but now I am excited about this new opportunity."
Mickelson opted to not defend his PGA Championship this year amid the furore, but the 51-year-old plans to return to compete at the majors alongside his LIV Golf involvement.
"I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved. I also intend to play the majors," he added.
"I fully realise and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I emphasise with that. I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game.
"I am incredibly grateful for the support of my fans, partners, and peers and I hope in time, those sentiments, relationships and support continue."
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