Greg Norman says Cameron Smith wasn’t the only major champion from the last 12 months to have considered making the switch to LIV Golf.
Speaking to Steven Levitt on his People I (Mostly) Admire podcast, Norman also staunchly defended his breakaway league for providing an alternative opportunity for players who have left the PGA and DP World Tours.
The 68-year-old asserted that the new tour, financially backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, never intended to hurt the PGA Tour – “At no stage has LIV gone out to destroy the PGA Tour – we’ve always wanted to coexist” – ahead of LIV’s second season, which launches this week in Mexico amid a flurry of new signings.
While they weren’t quite up to the standard of the “seven top-20 golfers in the world” Norman had promised at the start of the year, the CEO suggested Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick and Justin Thomas had considered joining Open champion Smith in making the controversial switch.
“I won’t mention this player’s name,” Norman said, “but he is a top player. He’s won a major championship in the last year – in 2022 – and he asked me to come over to sit down and show him what the LIV product was all about.
“He was willing to sit down and listen, so myself and another one of my executives went over to his house, and we walked him through the presentation. He just sat there and looked at me and goes, ‘Wow, this is nothing like we’ve been told in the locker room.’
“He decided not to come. I respect him wholeheartedly because he understood both sides, and he had a decision to make. He could have done whatever he wanted, and he chose to do that. Those individuals, I applaud.
“Those individuals to me have a tremendous amount of intelligence and are street smart because they wanted to learn what the truth was. What are the facts? What are my opportunities? What are my preferences? Now I’ll make a decision over here.
“Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy? They don’t understand the facts.”
The two-time Open Championships claimed to have proposed a number of innovations during his playing career that the PGA Tour has since adopted following the emergence of LIV.
Norman allegedly suggested using a microphone on the course and subsidising players’ expenses each week, but the Tour apparently looked at him as if he “had three heads”.
As much as Norman emphasises the quality of the fields and the product of LIV, one thing which hasn’t been delivered yet are Official World Golf Ranking points.
As LIV’s players tumble down the rankings, they are more likely to lose eligibility for major championships, particularly with PGA Tour suspensions and potential unwelcome from the DP World Tour pending the verdict of a recent hearing.
An update from the R&A has outlined a handful of LIV Golfers will be eligible to play in the 151st Open at Hoylake, but Norman criticised the current landscape that will likely cause this handful to diminish in the coming years.
“It’s called control. That’s all it is,” Norman said. “The more the LIV players lose their ranking points, the less chance they have to play in the majors or in other tournaments around the world.
“It’s a decision that just baffles me because they’re hurting themselves because it’s the strength of field.
“The Masters, The Open, the US Open, and the PGA of America – they are the four best tournaments. They must have the strongest fields because they are the four greatest tournaments in the world.
“So for them to not allow LIV players to play in their events is again cutting their noses off to spite their face because you’re not going to have the best strength of field.
“We have had four ex-No 1s in the world, and we’ve got 21 major championship winners in our field.
“Why would you not want that quality of talent playing in every major championship? Why would you not do that for your broadcaster, for your sponsors, for your fans who buy tickets?”
LIV Golf has come under intense scrutiny due to its association with the PIF and Saudi Arabia, a nation with a questionable human rights record.
Norman justified his association with the PIF by outlining their other investments in Boeing, EA Sports and Facebook, as well as claiming the PGA Tour has “something like 23 sponsors that do $40 billion of business into Saudi Arabia”.
He admitted that some of his “dear friends” no longer speak to him, but Norman maintains the pride in creating a tour that has attracted the likes Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau with lucrative contract offers.
“What I am doing is right for golf,” he added. “It is right for the players. It’s right for stakeholders. It’s right for the fans who support it. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.
“I’m proud to be in this seat. I’m proud of what I’ve done for the game of golf. I’m proud that I’ve torn off the scab or the scar tissue of a monopolist.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done investing into the Asian Tour and redirecting money to a sleeping giant. I’m proud of what I’ve given the opportunity to our principal players.”
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