By Alex Narey
Former world No.1 Greg Norman is to spearhead a new ground-breaking marquee golf series that will represent one of the single-biggest investments in the history of professional golf.
LIV Golf Investments, a start-up company of which Norman has been named CEO, has penned a landmark deal that will see a series of ten new events staged annually on the Asian Tour over the next ten years, representing a total commitment of over $200million to support playing opportunities and prize funds.
The series will be added to the Asian Tour schedule from 2022 onwards, with new events in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds which recently acquired an 80 per cent controlling stake in Newcastle United, is the majority shareholder of LIV Golf Investments.
The move is seen as a major and significant commercial opportunity, driving greater engagement among fans to stabilize golf in Asian Pacific territories.
“This is only the beginning,” said Norman, who will step away from his Greg Norman Company to focus 100 per cent on his new venture.
“LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf.
"We will be a cooperative and respectful supporter of the game at every level, and today’s announcement alongside the Asian Tour is the first example of that.”
Commenting on the financial backing of PIF, Norman added: “I am pleased that the investor base is 100 per cent commercially driven by the opportunity to improve golf for all involved.
"I am happy to partner with this group of investors to bring the significant resources to bear that are necessary for the fundamental changes required for the greater good of the sport.”
While Liv Golf Investments will not be an investor in the Asian Tour – but rather work as a promoter of its new events – the news only heightens speculation that Norman will be at the centre of a new Saudi-backed golf league.
A source has confirmed to Golf Monthly that the Australian will be its new commissioner, while it is alleged that the partnership between LIV Golf Investments and the Asian Tour is also connected to the new league.
In 1994, Norman’s proposals for a World Golf Tour - a series of eight no-cut events bringing the world’s top 40 players together – were shelved by the PGA Tour who, three years later, launched the World Golf Championships.
He has been closely linked to a breakaway circuit since plans resurfaced last year, which have been met with much hostility from both the European and PGA Tour.
The new series of events on the Asian Tour will add to a backbone of established tournaments to comprise a 25-event season, expected to represent a record-breaking combined prize fund in 2022.
Each of the ten new events will be broadcast live across the globe, with plans to attract an international field of headline talent regardless of Tour affiliation.
The announcement of LIV Golf’s partnership with the Asian Tour closely follows the striking of a new ten-year partnership between the Asian Tour and Golf Saudi, the organisers of the Saudi International, which will see the event become the flagship tournament on the Asian Tour, featuring an increased prize fund of $5million.
The Saudi International will not be one of the 10 new events to feature as part of the new series, but will itself provide enhanced exemption requirements.
Commenting on the partnership with LIV Golf Investments, Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said: “This is the single biggest development in the history of the Asian Tour and a major milestone for professional golf.
“The opportunity will secure unprecedented new playing opportunities, establish new player pathways, allow us to compete commercially with other sports, and enhance our social agenda.”
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