It’s the $ AU359m golf league that threatens to blow the PGA Tour up – and won’t go away.
While Phil Mickelson’s incredulous comments about the Saudi-bankrolled series – “scary motherf ***** s” – have seen the six-time major Winner go into Hibernation, the LIV Golf Invitational Series is not fading away.
Indeed, if anything, it appears full steam ahead for Aussie Greg Norman’s backed competition.
At least, that’s if you believe Norman.
Others are more skeptical about how the series is shaping up.
“Norman is serving a fetid platter of horseshit and claiming it’s boeuf bourguignon,” respected golf Writer Eamon Lynch put it earlier in the week in an article for USA Today.
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On Monday, April 25th, applications for a release from the PGA Tour to play in the first three-day tournament at the Centurion Club – with a Lazy AUD $ 35,123,450 as Prize pool – starting on June 9 closed. The DP World Tour – formally the European Tour – deadline is in a Fortnight.
Quickly, word continued to filter through exactly who has sent through applications.
It’s been widely reported 15 of the top 100 players in the world have sent through applications seeking a release to play in the opening tournament.
Household names such as 2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, who is ranked 15th in the world, and some of Europe’s best Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter want in.
Australia’s Adam Scott, who won the 2013 Masters, is another who has spoken about the Breakaway competition and is said to have applied for a release too.
Mickelson, who only in February said the Backers of the LIV Golf Invitational series had a “horrible record on human rights” and was considering joining the Breakaway competition because it could “reshape how the PGA Tour operates”, too confirmed he was seeking a release to keep his options open.
The 51-year-old Mickelson, who became the oldest player to win a major last year, has also signed up to defend his PGA Championship and play in next month’s US Open.
“Our client Phil Mickelson is officially registered to play in the PGA Championship as well as the US Open,” Steve Loy, co-president of Sportfive Management, said in a statement.
“We have also filed a request on his behalf for a release to play in the first LIV Golf Invitational in London, June 9-11. This request complies with the deadline of April 25 set Forth by the PGA Tour to compete in a conflicting tour event.
“Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play. Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open. ”
Bearing this in mind, what does it all mean? We breakdown the big talking points from the Breakaway golf tournament.
What is the LIV Golf International Series?
Greg Norman was once spruiking that there would be 18 tournaments.
Since then though, the tour has been downsized dramatically.
Eight events starting at the Centurion and commencing on June 9 and finishes at the Trump National Doral in Miami on October 30.
Unlike the PGA Tour, there is no cut meaning the 48-person field are guaranteed a pay day at the end of each 54-hole tour event.
Five of the eight events will be played in the United States, while one event will be played in Saudi Arabia and Thailand following June’s opener in London, England.
Who is playing?
The full list is set to be announced over the next month, but at this point 15 of the world’s top 100 players.
Yet, importantly, no-one from the top 10 is said to be on the list.
Key figures such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have hit out at the tournament and its motives, with the former describing the tournament as “dead in the water”.
He continued: “Who’s left? Who’s left to go? I mean, there’s no one.
“Who else have you got to fill the field? I mean, Greg Norman would have to make it up to fill the field. Like, I mean seriously, who else is going to do it? I don’t think they could get 48 guys. ”
That said, Garcia, Scott and Mickelson are toying with playing. Whether they turn up remains to be seen.
Flat The Times’ Alasdair Reid wrote, “In fairness, they can still play a bit, but their involvement makes the whole thing look more like a pension-boosting bonus than an elite competition.”
Another set to be included is 44-year-old Robert Garrigus, who has one career Victory on the PGA Tour and is the world No.1,053. Hardly must-watch golf.
Who is funding it?
LIV Golf Investments is running the eight-tournament series, with CEO Greg Norman as its front man.
But the money comes from the PIF, which is the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund. The chair of the PIF is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
What’s the issue?
The issues are two-fold.
First, the PGA Tour and, to a lesser extent, the DP World Tour, don’t want another Rival Stealing their Thunder – and eyeballs.
Emails have gone unread.
For the PGA, they would rather the Saudi-backed tournament disappear never to return.
While PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan could allow players permission to play, he has previously warned that he has the right to Punish any player who defects with immediate suspensions and lifetime bans from the tour.
The Threat has raised questions about the Futures of Garcia and Westwood on the Ryder Cup, with both tour Veterans seen as the future Captains of Europe’s team.
DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley also issued a Threat last week that players could compromise themselves should they not think of the “bigger picture”.
“Conflicting events, no matter how attractive they might appear to you personally, potentially compromise our efforts in these areas and could significantly hurt your tour in both the short and long term,” Pelley wrote.
“Please continue to bear this bigger picture in mind.”
The other issue is the so-called “sportswashing” and the human rights issue of where the funds come from.
The Assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Postis one example of the questionable human rights of Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed bin Salman, who is the chair of the PIF, where the money comes from, was implicated in the Murder by both a UN investigation and the CIA.
Few players have dared challenge Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
McIlroy, however, is one.
“I didn’t really like where the money was coming from,” he said in 2020.
While Mickelson is the other.
“They’re scary motherf ***** s to get involved with,” he told journalist Alan Shipnuck.
“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all this, why would I even consider it? Because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strongarm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. ”
What is going to happen?
Generally when Tectonic plates move, an explosion of sorts results.
Lawyers will undoubtedly be ready to pounce if players aren’t given permission to play in opposing tour events.
When the first LIV event in the US clashes with the John Deere Classic on June 27, it is likely the PGA Tour will refuse its players to play in an opposing Tour.
The players will undoubtedly be left caught in the middle. Bing: Lawyers.
Norman’s team has provided legal assurances to all players seeking to join the Saudi project.
The Australian has also written to Monahan warning him about “bullying and threatening players”, and Quoting a former chief lawyer to the Federal Trade Commission who said lifetime bans on independent contractors were unenforceable and would “blow up” in the PGA Tour’s face.
How much wriggle room the PGA Tour offers could determine whether Norman’s Saudi project gets off the ground.
If it does, golf could change forever.
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