Greg Norman Takes Aim at PGA Tour With New Saudi-Backed Golf League
A group headlined by Greg Norman is the latest new venture preparing to offer an alternative league to the dominant PGA Tour in professional golf.
On Friday, Norman, 66, who is a multiple major champion and was the world’s top-ranked player for more than five years, announced his association with LIV Golf Investments, whose major shareholder is the Public Investment Fund, an investment arm of Saudi Arabia’s government.
Norman’s group has committed to stage an additional 10 events on the Asian Tour in the next decade. But the enterprise’s goals are for a prominent worldwide presence, with play beginning as early as next year.
“This is only the beginning,” Norman said in a statement. “LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf.”
The announcement comes only weeks after a group led by the Public Investment Fund purchased the Premier League soccer team Newcastle United after a yearslong pursuit. That deal was nearly derailed by the fund’s involvement; critics of Saudi Arabia say the investments in sports by the PIF are merely an effort by the kingdom to obscure accusations of human rights abuses.
For more than 25 years, Norman has hoped to create a global golf tour as a rival to the PGA Tour. In the 1990s, he proposed a world golf tour and tried to lure top players to play in a collection of small field events that would have enlarged purses. The PGA Tour commissioner at the time, Tim Finchem, succeeded in fending off Norman’s tour, which the PGA Tour viewed as unwanted competition to its circuit.
Since then, several versions of a world tour that would challenge the PGA Tour have been proposed without a significant change in elite professional golf’s landscape. The latest was the Premier Golf League, based in London, which had a plan for more than 15 tournaments and limited fields of 48 players that would begin in 2023. A host of PGA Tour players, most notably Rory McIlroy, who was then No. 1 in the men’s worldwide rankings, were emphatic in their disinterest in the new league. The PGA Tour also informed its players that if they played in the upstart league they would not be permitted to compete on the PGA Tour.
Norman, known for his bold play and attacking style — his nickname is “the shark” — is undeterred.
“The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential,” Norman said. “We see our promotion of these new events as a vital first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform, rich with playing opportunities that create valuable player pathways.”