Speaking ahead of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational, which is set to be held at the Centurion Golf Club outside London next month, series CEO Greg Norman called the gruesome 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul a “mistake” and noted “the good that the country is doing in changing its culture.”
“Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward,” 67-year-old Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf Investments which is funded primarily by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, said this week at an event to promote the tournaments.
Predictably, Norman’s remarks were met with backlash and have drawn even more negative attention to a tournament that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has already informed his players they are not authorized to participate in.
Despite the controversy and Monahan’s decision, some players may decide to play at the LIV Golf event, which is scheduled to feature a 48-man field competing for a $20 million purse over 54 holes with the winner getting $4 million, anyway and risk losing their PGA Tour membership.
Speaking with Golf.com, Tour veteran Joel Dahmen said he thinks about “20ish” players “are probably going” and will risk being suspended or banned from PGA Tour play for a shot at the LIV’s lucrative $4 million top prize.
“The money is very tempting. But it’s the morality of it all and the money coming from Saudi will turn most people off,” Dahmen, a 34-year-old who’s played on the Tour for almost a decade, told Golf.com. “I think some people are worried about the golfing world hating them and all the stuff they would have to hear on social media and at events. I think people will slowly jump ship if some random guys are winning 10+ mil a year.”
Players who were expected to cross the pond prior to Monahan’s ruling include Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia and it is unclear if the commissioner’s decision has impacted their plans.
Justin Thomas, the eighth-ranked player in the world, isn’t losing any sleep over what his peers opt to do.
“Look, if you want to go, go,” he said. “There’s been plenty of guys that have been advocates of it and have just talked it up all the time and they have been guys behind the scenes that are saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this.’ And, like, my whole thing is, like, just go then. Stop going back and forth. Everybody’s entitled to do what they want.”
And the PGA Tour is entitled to respond accordingly.