Greg Norman’s new golf league was ready to launch the identical week in February that Phil Mickelson‘s controversial feedback concerning the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia have been revealed, which prompted many dedicated gamers to again out.
On the time, Norman informed ESPN on Monday, at the very least 30% of the highest 50 gamers on the planet had dedicated to play within the new league.
“There’s no query [Mickelson’s comments] damage,” mentioned Norman, a two-time winner of The Open and CEO of LIV Golf Investments. “It damage quite a lot of points. It damage the PGA Tour. It damage us. It damage the sport of golf. It damage Phil. So yeah, throughout all fronts. It wasn’t simply particularly to us. But it surely undoubtedly created unfavorable momentum in opposition to us.”
Norman mentioned the proposed league, which was being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, was ready to launch its 14-event schedule and roster of dedicated gamers in the course of the week of the Genesis Invitational, Feb. 17-20. However writer Alan Shipnuck revealed an interview associated to his upcoming unauthorized biography of Mickelson on the web site FirePitCollective.com on Feb. 15.
Within the interview, which Shipnuck mentioned came about in November, Mickelson known as the Saudi Arabians “scary motherf—ers” and mentioned he was solely keen to become involved with the brand new league to have leverage with the PGA Tour.
“… They killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible document on human rights,” Mickelson mentioned within the interview. “They execute folks over there for being homosexual. Figuring out all of this, why would I even take into account it? As a result of it is a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson was closely criticized for the feedback, and several other PGA Tour stars, together with Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and others, pledged their loyalty to the tour within the subsequent few days.
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“Fairly actually, we have been able to launch on the Tuesday or Wednesday of Genesis,” Norman mentioned. “We had sufficient gamers in our energy of subject, or minimal viable product, prepared to come back on board. And when all of that occurred, all people received the jitters, and the PGA Tour threatened folks with lifetime bans and stuff like that.”
Norman mentioned a handful of the gamers who had beforehand signed with LIV Golf have remained dedicated to play within the collection, which now contains eight occasions — together with 5 within the U.S.
Complete prize cash for the eight occasions can be $255 million, in response to LIV Golf Investments, and the seven regular-season tournaments may have complete purses of $25 million, which might be the richest in skilled golf, with $20 million in particular person prizes and $5 million for the highest three groups.
The highest three people after the seven regular-season occasions may even share a $30 million bonus.
The season-ending group match-play championship, scheduled for Oct. 27-30 at Trump Nationwide Doral in Miami, will present one other $50 million in prizes.
“To this present day, we nonetheless have gamers beneath contract and signed,” Norman mentioned. “Those who needed to get out due to the stress of the PGA Tour gave again their cash and received out. Guys had cash of their pockets.”
Mickelson, a six-time main champion, hasn’t performed in a tour occasion in additional than three months. Final month, he skipped the Masters, which he has gained 3 times, for the primary time since 1994.
Mickelson’s agent, Steve Loy, introduced final week that he has registered to play on this month’s PGA Championship, an occasion he gained final yr, and the U.S. Open in June. Loy mentioned that Mickelson had additionally requested a launch from the PGA Tour to play within the first LIV Golf Invitational Collection occasion in London in June.
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Loy mentioned Mickelson hasn’t but determined whether or not he’ll play in any of these occasions.
Regardless of Mickelson’s feedback, Norman mentioned he could be welcome at any LIV match.
“He’s at all times going to have an open door,” Norman mentioned. “It’s going to be his determination, his determination solely. He’s received a couple of issues he has to work out himself, clearly, with the PGA Tour and the place he needs to go along with them and the way he needs to go along with them. I can’t learn Phil’s thoughts as a result of I haven’t spoken with him. From our perspective, I’m at all times going to be constant in that I respect Phil. I respect what he’s carried out for the sport of golf, and he’s at all times going to have an open door to any golf match he needs to go play so far as I’m involved.”
Norman mentioned LIV Golf has acquired greater than 200 registration requests for its first match — June 11th of September at Centurion Golf Membership in London — which is able to embody 48 gamers competing on 12 four-man groups. He mentioned the record of gamers who’ve registered contains about 15 of the highest 100 gamers within the Official World Golf Rating and two gamers who have been beforehand ranked No. 1.
“I’ve been very pleasantly stunned,” Norman mentioned. “What has been talked about within the media and what’s actuality are two various things. We all know what’s taking place with quite a lot of curiosity expressed. From an expectation standpoint, we’ve received quite a lot of curiosity from considerably named gamers. Our mission is to be affected person, and we’re going to ship these occasions and it’s as much as the gamers to make their determination on what they wish to do as unbiased contractors.”
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As a result of the LIV Golf Invitational in London conflicts with the RBC Canadian Open, PGA Tour gamers should be granted a launch from the tour to play within the different match. Norman mentioned a number of gamers from the DP World Tour, previously the European Tour, have additionally registered for the LIV Invitational.
“The European tour is beginning to pound their chest a bit of bit with the gamers,” Norman mentioned. “What I’m listening to from the gamers is that [the DP World Tour] is saying there are going to be critical penalties should you go play with no launch, and should you do put in for a launch, you’re not going to get one. That’s logical rhetoric coming from the European tour. However the pure reality is that they’re now companions with the PGA Tour, in order that they’ve received to sing the identical track that the PGA Tour was singing.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan informed gamers after the PGA Championship in Could 2021 that anybody who joined the Saudi-financed league could be suspended and probably face a lifetime ban from the PGA Tour.
“I can solely communicate on data given to me by our authorized group, and I’ve an especially proficient authorized group in antitrust and anti-competitive legal guidelines, and we imagine we’re in the correct place,” Norman mentioned. “We imagine the gamers are unbiased contractors and have a proper to go play wherever they wish to go play.”