Top golfers turn on Greg Norman amid $260 million controversy

Greg Norman is pictured here during an event in 2012.
Greg Norman's breakaway competition is proving a hard sell for some of the world's best golfers. Pic: Getty

Two of the world's best golfers have poured cold water on Greg Norman's controversial new breakaway competition, insisting their focus is purely on the PGA Tour.

Norman has spoken out amid backlash over a new 10-tournament series on the Asian Tour, insisting it is not a "direct attack" on the PGA Tour.

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The Aussie golf legend has been named as the CEO of LIV Golf Investments (LGI), a newly formed company backed by the Private Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

A company press release last week said Norman's appointment will "set in motion a number of momentous developments for professional golf worldwide".

Norman said the investment of at least $260 million in prize money over the next 10 years "is only the beginning" amid rumours that he will also become the commissioner of a new Saudi-funded breakaway golf league.

Major winners Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka told reporters they have no interest in the new competition being spearheaded by Norman.

The American stars are among those who tee off in Thursday's opening round of the Mayakoba Championship at par-71 El Camaleon, a course in Mexico designed by Norman.

The Super League would start in 2022 and feature 10 events worldwide sanctioned by the Asian Tour, with top stars said to be guaranteed huge paydays.

The US PGA Tour has responded by saying any golfers participating in the rival circuit would face life bans from PGA events.

It's similar to a breakaway idea Norman championed in the 1990s that led to the creation of WGC events within the PGA umbrella.

Four-time major champion Koepka, ranked 13th, said his attention is aimed at PGA events.

"Seems like there's a bunch of stuff going on, but at the end of the day there's only one tour I'm playing right now, so I'm only interested in that one," Koepka said.

World number seven Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, has said he isn't interested in jumping to the new league.

Seen here, Justin Thomas of team United States interacts with the crowd during the 2021 Ryder Cup.
American superstar Justin Thomas is not interested in the breakaway competition being spearheaded by Greg Norman. Pic: Getty

"I'm focused on what I'm doing out here," Thomas said.

"Obviously I'm trying to listen and talk to players and people and hear as much as I can, but at the same time, what's most important right now is my career on the PGA Tour and me playing well in Mexico this week.

"I know Greg a little bit. I know that this has kind of been a vision and a hope of his for a while. I know he's excited and the guys that are excited to potentially go do it are probably even more so."

Norman said he felt top golfers were not compensated well enough in the current PGA Tour system, but Thomas said recent changes such as a new $40 million bonus fund for traditional and social media popularity - the Player Impact Program - and a prize money jump has addressed the issue.

Greg Norman in action at the Honda Classic Pro-Am in 2019. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
Greg Norman in action at the Honda Classic Pro-Am in 2019. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

"I understand what he's saying, but I think that was something that maybe wasn't addressed as much in the past, but is a lot now," Thomas said.

"With stuff like the Player Impact Program and purses and everything going up, I think it's becoming (better)."

Greg Norman says new competition will benefit golf

Norman refuted suggestions that his involvement in the breakaway competition is not an act of revenge against the PGA Tour for blocking his bid to establish a World Golf Tour in 1994.

"I can categorically say this is not a direct attack on the PGA Tour. It's for the betterment of the game of golf, pure and simple," Norman said.

"There's been a lot of commentary about this being all about me getting even with the Tour. This idea has been around for a long time."

The "strategic alliance" signed between the PGA Tour and European Tour in November of 2020 was widely seen as a response to the threat posed by potential breakaway leagues.

The PGA Tour are reported to be considering a series of autumn events with big prize money, no cuts and appearance money based on FedEx Cup standings.

"Isn't that their fiduciary responsibility, to be doing that every year?" Norman added.

"Shouldn't that be the precedent they set, rather than being reactionary to somebody else's proposal?

"If that story is indeed true then it's great news that the PGA Tour is doing that, truly it is.

"It tells you that maybe, just maybe, this whole LIV Golf Investments project is the competitor that's strong enough to show the world that there are two avenues you can take (in professional golf).

"Who knows, maybe there are three avenues or even four? I don't care. All I know is, if you have a good, solid business plan and you can present it and execute it in the best interests of the game ... hallelujah!"

with agencies

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