Hello. Welcome to the latest edition of The Slam. I’m sorry to say there is a little bit more about Greg Norman coming up. It’s worth it. Honest.
In last week’s column I questioned the Shark’s reasoning for getting involved in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments, which plan to run a series of events starting on the Asian Tour in 2022.
Well, Golf Digest’s Dan Rappaport got a hold of the two-time Open champion to ask him that exact question. And there was one particular answer that stood out more than others.
“I’ve been going to Saudi Arabia now for three years,” Norman explained when asked if he has concerns about where the money is coming from. “Unless you actually go there and see and understand exactly what’s happening there, you [can’t] sit back and make judgmental calls.
“I made the journey there to look at what was happening in Saudi Arabia before I made any decision on anything because I’m not a person who makes judgement calls. I make sound decisions on sound facts and information that is presented to you. So when the PIF wanted to become a majority investor, I knew what was happening in the country.”
And women’s rights issues?
“Women’s right issues,” he said, before unleashing what is either the best or worst answer to any question ever asked. “The women there now, I’ve been so impressed. You walk into a restaurant and there are women. They’re not wearing burkas. They’re out playing golf.”
Sigh. I think you know where this is going.
Women! In restaurants! Showing their skin! And playing golf! What a world. Does Greg even know that lots of countries have been allowing women to eat in restaurants AND wear what they want AND play golf for, well, YEARS?
Now I know we’re not always perfect when it comes to equality and it is something that needs addressing at all levels even in this country, but on what planet does Norman think he is?
That last paragraph of quotes was so contemptible it forced the Digest editors to add this note immediately following it: “Saudi Arabia ranked 147th out of 153 nations in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 2021. And according to Human Rights watch, despite women’s rights reforms in recent years, ‘Saudi women still must obtain a male guardian’s approval to get married, leave prison, or obtain certain healthcare. Women also continue to face discrimination in relation to marriage, family, divorce, and decisions relating to children, including child custody.'”
It’s almost as if the World Economic Forum don’t know that a golfer once went there and saw some women eating in public.
And just for an added chef’s kiss, Minjee Lee, competing in the Women Are Actually Allowed To Play Golf Here Invitational, or whatever it’s called, highlighted the added test of mental strength while playing in Saudi Arabia.
“We have to cover our legs so we don’t show too much skin so it just feels like we’re in like body suits in really hot heat,” the Australian explained, adding that a dress must be below the knee, while no sleeveless tops are allowed and shoulders cannot be showing.
I’m probably going to stop here. I can already hear the #NotAllMen mob circling with their “male tour players can’t wear shorts” retorts…
Anyway, who won this week?
Well, it’s actually called the Saudi Ladies International – I was doing a little joke before, you see – and Lydia Ko, in her long sleeves, stormed to a five-shot win over teenage sensation Atthaya Thitikul. Ko finished a whopping 10 shots clear of third-placed Alice Hewson and Carlota Ciganda.
As a result of her runner-up spot, Thitikul – who we tipped as the one to watch this season – won the Race to the Costa Del Sol title, making her not only the youngest player to ever do this, but she joins Ciganda, Laura Davies, and Esther Henseleit as the only four players to win the Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year in the same year.
Meanwhile on the PGA Tour, there is something immensely likeable about Viktor Hovland. He’s quirky, he’s funny, and he likes heavy metal music and road trips. It’s remarkable how much we have in common.
He also now has four wins across the PGA and European Tours after successfully defending his title in Mayakoba with a three-shot win over local favourite Carlos Ortiz.
And Hovland – who is the first player to defend a PGA Tour title since Brooks Koepka at the 2019 PGA Championship – actually won with a slightly different driver to the one he is used to. In fact, it was James Hahn’s driver.
But I’ll let Hannah Holden take up that ridiculous story…
On this side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, there was a return to the winners’ circle for Thomas Pieters.
Great to see you back, TP.
Right, that’s enough from me. Remember you can follow me on Twitter if that’s your thing, and play well this week.