Greg Norman, the head of LIV golf’s international marketing, was asked to comment on Saudi Arabia. In response he said: “I don’t know much about it but I’m sure there are some good people.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, Greg Norman held the world number one position for almost 300 weeks.
Asked about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the death of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi, former world number one Greg Norman told reporters, “we’ve all made errors.”
The 67-year-old Australian is the face of a new Saudi-funded championship worth $255 million (£207 million), with the first of eight events set to take place in June at Centurion Club near London.
The great majority of questions during an event to promote the new LIV Golf series focused on suspicions of so-called’sports washing,’ as well as the murder of Saudi Arabian writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
“Everybody has owned up to it, right?” Norman, who is also the CEO of LIV Golf, added. It has been discussed, based on what I’ve read and what you’ve stated. Take responsibility for whatever it is.
“Look, we’ve all made errors, and all you want to do now is learn from them and how to avoid them in the future.”
According to US media sources, the CIA’s director heard the consulate audio recordings and decided with “medium to high confidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder, which Bin Salman has denied.
Bin Salman is the head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which funds a variety of athletic events such as Formula 1, boxing, football, and golf.
Norman, who won two Open Championships and spent more than 300 weeks at the top of the world rankings in the 1980s and 1990s, told Sport on Tuesday that he has secured an additional $2 billion from PIF, allowing his LIV Golf ambitions to last “decades.”
Norman, who claims he has never met Bin Salman, said on Wednesday that it would not bother him if players in his series spoke up about human rights problems.
“Every player has the right to express himself,” he remarked.
“Speak about the entire problem with Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi and human rights, but also talk about what the nation is doing to alter its culture.”
“There aren’t many nations that can claim that. They can’t be proud of their history – many nations throughout the globe do – but they are concerned about the future.”
Norman is also dealing with concerns surrounding his supporters, as well as the PGA Tour’s refusal to let its members to compete in his tournaments.
Norman said on Tuesday that he had five of the world’s top 50 players committed to the Centurion event, but the PGA Tour responded with a statement threatening suspensions for anybody who disobeyed the rule.
According to sources, the DP World Tour, which has a strategic alliance with the PGA Tour, will follow suit and refuse to allow its members to compete in the new series.
If the PGA and DP World Tours sought to suspend players after refusing them releases, Norman claimed LIV Golf has injunctions “ready to go.”
From June 9-11, the first 54-hole $25 million (£20 million) event will be held at Centurion Club, 30 miles north of London.
Norman intends to reveal part of the lineup next week, ahead of the US PGA Championship, the year’s second men’s major, with the full field to be announced on May 27.
The PGA Tour granted permission to players like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood to compete.
“We’re going to support the guys,” Norman remarked. “The player will have the last say. I won’t hold it against any athlete who chooses to play wherever he wants. We’re giving them this power because we think LIV will be around for a long time.
“If you just want to watch the PGA Tour, go ahead and do it. I’m certain that a large number of individuals will ultimately join LIV Golf.
“”We’ve got your back, simple as that,” I told the guys. We’ll defend you, compensate you, and represent you.”
Eight invitational tournaments are planned for 2022, with Norman predicting that more would be added in 2023, followed by a team-based 14-event league in 2024.
The first seven events will each feature a prize pool of $25 million, with the winner receiving $4 million (£3.2 million), while the final event will have a prize pool of $50 million.
Norman asserted that he could make the endeavor a success even if the world’s finest players refused to participate.
“We don’t need them,” Norman remarked when asked whether Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, who have both said that refusing Saudi money is “moral,” would help his case.
“Even if none of the top 20 [players in the global rankings] show up, the tournament will still go on.”
“Consider what would happen if a 15-year-old Asian youngster won the first event. He’ll be the next big thing. That would be the most significant event in golf because it demonstrates the presence of the next generation.”
Norman alleges he has attempted to communicate with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about working “shoulder to shoulder,” but has received no response.
Monahan said in March at the Players Championship that he would “not be sidetracked by rumors about other golf leagues.”