Greg Norman, the two-time major winner, who is fronting a £200 million Saudi-backed rebel golf tour, has admitted that Phil Mickelson’s comments about ‘scary motherf*****s’ has damaged golf – and his attempts to recruit players.
Norman is attempting to sell the LIV Golf Invitational Series, formerly known as the Super Golf League, to the world’s top golfers.
But despite the inaugural event, which is due to tee off on June 9, offering £19million in prize money, it has proved a tough sell.
Greg Norman, CEO of Liv Golf Investments admits comments from Phil Mickelson hurt golf
And the Australian has confirmed that Mickelson’s comments have not helped as he endeavours to prize golfers away from the established PGA Tour.
The six-time major winner Mickelson was quoted in February making references to the ‘execution’ of gay people in the Middle Eastern country and the killing of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, before concluding Saudis are ‘scary motherf—s to get involved with.’
‘There’s no question (it) hurt,’ Norman, who is the CEO of the LIV Series, told ESPN. ‘It hurt a lot of aspects. It hurt the PGA Tour. It hurt us. It hurt the game of golf. It hurt Phil. So yeah, across all fronts. It wasn’t just specifically to us. But it definitely created negative momentum against us.’
Mickelson was discussing new LIV series when he described Saudis as ‘scary motherf*****s’
Originally set to be a 14-event schedule, the rebel series has restructured itself with a potential eight-event season, with a total of £200M in prize money up for grabs.
It is not clear exactly how many players, or exactly which ones, are signed up for the series, or the curtain raiser at St Albans.
Last week, Mickelson performed a stunning U-turn and put his name forward for the inaugural event at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, which is open to 48 players set to compete on 12 four-man teams.
And a LIV Golf spokesperson told Sports Illustrated that 15 of the world’s top 100-ranked men had done so, too.
Inaugural even of the Saudi rebel golf series is due to take place at Centurion Club, St Albans
Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is reportedly ready to risk Ryder Cup exile and play at St Albans.
What is the LIV Series?
The breakaway circuit will launch in London in June, at the Centurion Club near St Albans.
It will tee off on June 9, one week before the US Open, with a £19m purse for a 48-man field.
Seven more events will follow run by LIV Golf, going to the US (four events) Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
Those seven will each be worth £19m. A £23m prize for the top three players of the first seven events will be available.
The eighth event will be a team championship with a £38m prize — location TBC.
Each event will be richer than the four majors.
The Spaniard, Europe’s all-time leading points scorer, is reportedly one of at least three major winners due to ask the PGA Tour for permission to appear in the tournament, according to the Telegraph.
Previously, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer were supposedly being inked in to play.
On Monday, Norman accepted that Mickelson’s comments had caused some golfers to have second thoughts.
‘Quite honestly, we were ready to launch (in February),’ Norman said. ‘We had enough players in our strength of field, or minimal viable product, ready to come on board. And when all of that happened, everybody got the jitters, and the PGA Tour threatened people with lifetime bans and stuff like that.’
‘I’ve been very pleasantly surprised,’ Norman said. ‘What has been talked about in the media and what is reality are two different things. We know what’s happening with a lot of interest expressed.
‘From an expectation standpoint, we’ve got a lot of interest from significantly named players.’
Mickelson’s controversial comments were published on February 15, after a November interview with author Alan Shipnuck.
Following his explosive remarks, the golfer went on to explain why he still had interest in joining the Saudi-backed league.
‘(They) have a horrible record on human rights,’ Mickelson was quoted as saying.
‘They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.
‘They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse.’
Mickelson subsequently apologised for his reckless comments.