It has events, money, a new name, and a determined leader. But, writes Alex Perry, there's one vital ingredient missing from Greg Norman's venture. Appeal
Attention! Everyone! You, in the back, no talking. Greg Norman would like us all to stop calling the Saudi Golf League the Saudi Golf League. It’s incredibly awkward for him to talk about, because the Saudi Golf League is funded by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, a country that just last week carried out its largest ever mass execution.
So he absolutely must insist we stop calling it the Saudi Golf League, because surely no one would want to be associated with – let alone on the payroll of – such a brutal regime.
Therefore we must refer to the Saudi Golf League as the LIV Golf Invitational. And not the Saudi Golf League.
Why LIV? Well, there is speculation. LIV in roman numerals is 54. And the Saudi Go– I mean, LIV Golf Invitational will be a series of 54-hole events. The other theory is that 54 is the “perfect score” in golf – on the basis that you birdie every hole of a par-72 course. Which is slightly less lame, I suppose.
The money for the Grow the Game Invitational presented by the Please Ignore All That Other Horrible Stuff We Do Group is, as you can imagine given it’s coming from a bottomless, oil-stained pit, is utterly obscene.
But if we forget, just for a moment, all the talk of blood money and look at it on a purely golf level, there are far too many issues for Norman to overcome. Appeal, mostly.
Firstly, the courses that have signed up are hardly inspiring. The schedule, which was released earlier this week, starts at Centurion Club. (Yes, I know it’s not technically in London. Please stop messaging me. No one outside Hemel Hempstead knows where Hemel Hempstead is.) This is hardly surprising given last year’s inaugural Aramco Team Series was there.
It will then head to the US for a run of four events – including, shock horror, a Trump venue – then to Thailand and finally, Saudi Arabia. Wait, why Saudi Arabia? Because they’re funding it, remember? Pay attention.
And what’s more, if they don’t get 48 players, the prizes just get split between who does play. So if only 20 players turn up, the money just gets divided between those 20 players. That means we could potentially see a Jason Kokrak-type figure rock upi n Hertfordshire, play 54 holes, and fly home with 50 per cent of his entire career earnings stuffed in a briefcase.
That’s leads us into Norman’s next problem.
Who’s going to sign up? I don’t need to remind you that Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, and Dustin Johnson have said they’re not getting involved, while Bryson DeChambeau – who was reportedly offered nine figures to become the face of the LIV Golf – said he “wants to play wherever the best players are playing”.
Norman says he has “single digit-ranked players in the world” getting in touch to say they are “so excited to hear” about what’s on offer. Who could that be?
Now we know World Nos 1 and 2 Rahm and Morikawa are out, while No 3 Viktor Hovland echoed DeChambeau’s point. Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay says “with the amount of money they’re talking about it’s very tempting”, so it could be him. No 5 Scottie Scheffler hasn’t been quoted on the matter, so it could be him too. No 6 Cameron Smith has “no interest” – he said after his Players win that he already has more money than he can possibly spend – and Nos 7, 8 and 9 are McIlroy, Thomas and Schauffele.
I mean absolutely no disrespect to Cantlay – he’s clearly one of the finest players in the world and a multiple PGA Tour champion – but if he is going to be the highest-ranked player to make the jump, he isn’t exactly going to have the fans flocking from all over the home counties.
As for TV viewers – is it even going to be on TV? – who’s tuning in on a Sunday afternoon to watch two players ranked in the 60s and 70s battle shot-for-shot under the gentle drone of the M1?
But the third, and perhaps biggest problem, is the format.
They’re making a big fuss about each event being 54 holes with no cut. Yawn. How long did that meeting even last? It’s like they got to the end of the day and realised they hadn’t decided, someone said “Three days, no cut?” and everyone mumbled something about Happy Hour. They did manage to throw in a Shotgun Start before the two-for-ones started flowing, because which tour pro doesn’t want a three-mile walk back to the clubhouse after playing 18 holes?
It’s worth noting, that for all the players’ nonsense about how Saudi Arabia want to “grow the game”, the first event of the LIV Golf Invitational happens to clash with the DP World Tour’s Scandinavian Mixed hosted by Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam – a tournament actually doing its part to grow the game.
I know what I’ll be watching – probably Netflix – but it seems the Saudi Golf League, whether we like it or not, is here to stay.
Unfortunately, as a viewing spectacle, its leaders’ arrogance could be its biggest downfall.
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So we finally have our Ryder Cup captains for 2023.
I’ll always trust the panel’s decision – they’ve barely put a foot wrong in the past 30 years – and I don’t doubt Henrik Stenson will do a great job.
Personally, I’d have gone with Luke Donald, a player who never tasted defeat as a player and contributed 10.5 points to the victorious European teams of 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012 before serving as a vice-captain in 2018 and 2021.
Sadly, it looks like he’ll never get the job. Though he remains optimistic.
“I thought I had a good chance this year,” the Englishman told Golfweek. “I was disappointed personally that I didn’t get the nod but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it down the road. I wish Henrik all the best and support him along the way.
“Hopefully, that’s not my chance gone. We have a lot of very worthy candidates, legends of the Ryder Cup, guys like Sergio [Garcia].”
I wonder if the fact that there have only been four captains from the continent in the Team Europe era had anything to do with the decision…
So who won this week?
Ironically, Europe’s finest were in the Kingdom this week for the Saudi Ladies International. And Georgia Hall can no longer say her only LET title is the Women’s Open after she cruised home by five…
In South Africa, Shaun Norris lifted the inaugural Steyn City Championship for his first DP World Tour title…
And the PGA Tour’s Florida swing continued at Innisbrook, where Sam Burns edged out Davis Riley in a play-off thanks to this putt…