LIV Golf Commissioner and CEO Greg Norman has hit out at the PGA Tour following criticism of the breakaway circuit's arrangement with Saudi Arabia. Norman, who won 20 PGA Tour titles in an illustrious playing career, described what he called the Tour's "hypocrisy" as "deafening."
In an interview with Piers Morgan Uncensored, the Australian said: "The hypocrisy coming out of this is so deafening it's ridiculous. The PGA Tour has title sponsors that have a great working relationship, for a commercial opportunity, with the Saudi Government and with the PIF (Public Investment Fund)."
Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund has invested in excess of $2bn in the new circuit, which recently unveiled plans to scale up to a 14-tournament schedule in 2023. It also holds stakes in Twitter, Boeing, Uber, Facebook and Citi - the first-ever Global Partner of The Presidents Cup.
"PIF has done a lot of direct and indirect investment in a multitude of opportunities that probably here in this country (United States), one third of this country are the benefactors of that," Norman added. "I don't understand why it is that way, sadly. I've got an idea because we're going in and challenging the monopolists which is the PGA Tour."
The Saudi-backed venture continues to receive widespread criticism with players accused of sportswashing human rights atrocities within the Kingdom. Former President Donald Trump has publicly endorsed the circuit with numerous LIV events held at Trump-owned properties - which attracted opprobrium from the advocacy group 9/11 Justice given Saudi Arabia's links with the September 11 attacks - 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the tragedy were Saudi nationals.
Norman added that the hypocrisy against LIV Golf extended to the players, with those that joined the venture suspended from PGA Tour. "We're not asking our guys just to play LIV and nowhere else in the world. We're giving our guys the opportunity to play wherever they want in the world. We're not holding restrictive covenants, they can go and do whatever they want to do and that's what I'm proud about," he said.
LIV Golf has joined a subset of its players in an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Within, the players are challenging their suspension in light of their playing in the Saudi-backed venture, stating the PGA Tour's "conduct serves no purpose other than to cause harm to players and foreclose the entry of the first meaningful competitive threat the Tour has faced in decades." The summary judgement is set for July 2023, with the trial to begin in January 2024.
Rory McIlroy has vehemently defended the PGA Tour and spoken out against the newly-emerged LIV Golf Series, with Norman delivering a message to the Northern Irishman: "My message is - Rory you're an independent contractor. You have the right to make your decision. Remember, Rory started on the European [DP World] Tour then Rory decided to leave the European [DP World] Tour to go play where all the money is, to the PGA Tour.
"Rory, do what you want to do. If he's comfortable over there doing that, he's an independent contactor he can. If Rory wants to go to the Middle East and get appearance money to play in tournaments, happy days. Go play in those, Rory. That's your choice. Don't begrudge the other players for making the decision that is the right decision under their independent contractual right to go do it.
"It's just a shame people have taken this stance when if you look back over a period of time, they've pretty much done the same thing themselves."
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James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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