Greg Norman claims Tiger Woods turned down a near billion dollar offer to join LIV Golf, while he also called his former mentor Jack Nicklaus a hypocrite for siding with the PGA Tour.
The LIV Golf CEO was speaking with the Washington Post ahead of the opening 54-hole $25m invitational starting Thursday at the Centurion Club.
Phil Mickelson became the last big name to confirm for the London event, reportedly accepting a $200m deal to sign up for the eight-tournament series, but even Mickelson’s massive payday would’ve paled in comparison to the one Tiger would’ve received had he joined the breakaway tour being backed by the bottomless investment fund of Saudi Arabia.
It was “mind-blowingly enormous,” Norman said of Woods’ apparent offer. “We’re talking about high nine digits.”
Woods has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour, most recently prior to the US PGA Championship where he put his legacy before profit when it came to any LIV Golf speculation.
“You know, [Phil Mickelson] has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf going. I have my viewpoint on how I see the game of golf, and I’ve supported the tour and my foundation has run events on the tour for a number of years,” Woods said.
“I just think that what Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] have done in starting the tour and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our tour in ’68 or ’69, somewhere in there, I just think there’s a legacy to that.
“I’ve been playing out here for a couple of years over decades, and I think there’s a legacy to it. I still think that the tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity. I understand different viewpoints, but I believe in legacies; I believe in major championships; I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. There’s plenty of money out here. The tour is growing. But it’s just like any other sport. It’s like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. You’ve got to go out there and play for it. We have opportunity to go ahead and do it. It’s just not guaranteed up front.”
Woods mentions Nicklaus, and Norman was quick to call out his former mentor when it came to his brief history with LIV Golf. The Golden Bear announced recently that he had turned down a $100 million offer to support the Saudi-backed project in Norman’s current CEO role, and Nicklaus confirmed prior to last week’s Memorial Tournament that he has “zero interest” in having anything to do with LIV Golf.
“I’ve got zero interest in wanting to do something like that,” Nicklaus said.
“I don’t care what kind of money they would have thrown at me. My allegiance has been to the PGA Tour. I grew up on the PGA Tour. I helped found the PGA Tour as it is today. My allegiance is there, and it’s going to stay there.”
Norman, however, claims Nicklaus was all for the Saudi project in the past and slammed the 18-time Major winner, labelling him a “hypocrite” for his alleged U-turn.
“One hundred percent truth? Jack’s a hypocrite,” Norman said. “When he came out with those comments, I’m thinking: Jack must have a short memory.”
It remains to be seen what kind of disciplinary action from the PGA Tour awaits the likes of Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia for teeing up in this week’s event in London.
All PGA Tour members were denied requests to compete in the event because it clashes with Thursday’s starting Canadian Open, with Kevin Na the first to formally resign from the PGA Tour, presumably to avoid any possible punishments coming down the track.
“I’m a bit surprised, actually,” Norman said to PA news agency regarding Na’s decision.
“The players don’t have to resign from the Tour. That was Kevin’s decision for whatever reason he wanted to make it.
“I respect the man for making a bold decision. I respect the person for wanting to come on board with us, because he knows he has a great opportunity with LIV. I’ll applaud him for it, but he didn’t have to, from our behalf, because LIV would be there (for him).
“Like I’ve always said, we’re going to back up the players. I’ll back up the players as much as I need to, to give them their rights to be able to do whatever they want to do as independent contractors.”
As for Norman’s own role in the series, one that seemingly puts him front and centre to field a barrage of intense media scrutiny so the players don’t have to, he’s happy to play punching back if it means clawing some power away from the PGA Tour.
“Everybody says to me: ‘Greg, you’re the punching bag.’ I’ve been a punching bag for 45 years of my life. It doesn’t bother me,” he added to the Washington Post . “I’m not going to back off. I’m not going to show weakness to my team. I’m not going to show weakness to monopolists. I’m going to stand up for the rights of the players.”
“The players who decide to come on board, God bless them. They’re going to make a lot of money.”
The first LIV Golf event is set to be streamed on YouTube.
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