Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour rebels free to compete in The Open Championship
Greg Norman’s rebel tour has shaken up world golf, but stars who have signed on to the Saudi-backed LIV circuit have had a Major win — literally.
Greg Norman’s Saudi rebellion is set to storm St Andrews.
R and A chief executive Martin Slumbers released a statement on Wednesday night confirming that players who had committed to play in the Saudi-backed LIV Tour would be free to compete in The Open Championship.
It means the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia are clear to vie for the Claret Jug next month.
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“The Open is golf’s original championship and since it was first played in 1860, openness has been fundamental to its ethos and unique appeal,” Slumbers said.
“Players who are exempt or have earned a place through qualifying for The 150th Open in accordance with the entry terms and conditions will be able to compete in the Championship at St Andrews.
“We are focused on staging a world class championship in July and celebrating this truly historic occasion for golf. We will invest the proceeds of The Open, as we always do, for the benefit of golf which reflects our purpose to ensure that the sport is thriving 50 years from now.”
The US PGA Tour has banned players who have pledged their allegiance to the LIV Tour, which is backed by Saudi billions and began in earnest earlier this month with its first tournament.
Norman has waged a torrid war against the establishment and his position appears to be strengthening by the day given he continues to add star players to his ranks.
The latest to join the LIV Tour are Koepka and former Australian Open winner Abraham Ancer, the world No.20. Their decision to switch camps means Norman has now signed three of the top 20 players in the world.
The highest-profile Australian player to join the LIV Tour is Matt Jones, who has been banned from the US PGA Tour as a result.
Jones may yet be locked out of Australia’s major events at the end of the year, although the Australasian PGA Tour is likely to take its guide from the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour.
The Australian Open and PGA are co-sanctioned events on the DP World Tour. As it stands, the DP World Tour is yet to render its verdict on the LIV Tour, which has begun amid claims of sportwashing as the Saudi government uses golf as a means to improve the country’s global image.
Meanwhile, the US PGA Tour continues to fight back. Tour commissioner Jay Monahan held a meeting with players this week in the lead-up to the Travelers Championship in Connecticut where he reportedly told them that the tour was in a strong position but under attack.
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The Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit is planning to formally request acceptance into the global rankings system, series chief Greg Norman said.
LIV Commissioner Norman told Fox News in a television interview late Saturday that the controversial breakaway series has a “compelling case” for its tournaments to be awarded rankings points.
The issue of LIV Golf’s events being recognised by the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system could be pivotal to the breakaway series’ future.
If players can earn rankings points from LIV events, it becomes easier for golfers on the circuit to qualify for golf’s four major tournaments.
Norman told Fox that LIV plans to submit an application for rankings entry imminently.
“We’re actually applying for OWGR points right now. We’re actually putting in our application probably over the weekend, if not Monday,” Norman said on Fox.
“And it’s a very compelling application. We’ve worked very, very closely with the technical committee understanding all the components of what you need to apply for it.”
The emergence of LIV Golf this year has plunged the sport into turmoil, with several top players from the PGA Tour opting to switch to the Saudi-funded series, which offers some of the richest purses in golf history.
The PGA Tour, however, has adopted a zero-tolerance stance towards the series, with commissioner Jay Monahan last week suspending 17 former or current tour players for making the switch.
Monahan is one of the eight members of the OWGR board which will rule on LIV’s application to the rankings system.
Norman told Fox he believes Monahan should “recuse himself” from any vote on LIV’s entry, citing a television interview the PGA Tour chief gave last week in which he defended his decision to issue suspensions.
“It’s very interesting and it’s sad to be, you know, putting that additional exerting pressure on it because our tour is a good tour,” Norman said.
“It’s supported, it’s got an incredible field. Our point should be that if we get the OWGR out points, then everything else takes care of itself.”
LIV Golf, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has drawn stinging criticism from human rights groups, saying the series is an attempt to boost the kingdom’s image through sport.
Prominent US broadcaster Bob Costas recently joined the chorus of criticism, accusing LIV players as accepting “blood money”.
However, Norman hit back at that criticism, noting that companies sponsoring the PGA Tour regularly did business with Saudi Arabia, and noting that the tour had also allowed its members to play in a DP World Tour event held in the country.
“I’m disappointed people go down that path, quite honestly,” he said.
“If they want to look at it in prism, then why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors doing 40-plus billion dollars worth of business with Saudi Arabia?
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“Why is it okay for the sponsors? Will Jay Monahan go to each and every one of those CEOs of the 23 companies that are investing into Saudi Arabia and suspend them and ban them? The hypocrisy in all this, it’s so loud it’s deafening.”
After making its debut in Britain last week, LIV Golf will hold its first event in the United States from June 30-July 2 in Oregon.
Originally published as Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour rebels free to compete in The Open Championship