Greg Norman opens up about LIV Golf, ‘blood money’ controversy

Greg Norman sat poolside on Wednesday at Trump Bedminster forward of LIV Golf’s third occasion since its latest inception.

The 67-year-old Aussie, a two-time main championship winner whose size of reign because the No. 1 ranked participant on the earth was solely outdone by Tiger Woods, seemed relaxed, happy and effervescent with anticipation for the week as he spoke solely to The Post about an array of subjects associated to the controversial Saudi-backed tour.

Norman, the face of LIV Golf as its CEO and commissioner, held no punches again as he spoke about LIV Golf’s place within the ecosystem of the game, the pushback by the PGA Tour, his personal battle with the PGA Tour that dates again to the ’90s, the marquee gamers LIV has signed and his personal legacy within the sport. He, too, pushed again at these essential about him and the gamers taking the Saudi money.

Q: How do you’re feeling about how shortly LIV Golf has come about and the present momentum the tour has generated?

A: One phrase: Product. We knew how good the product was, due to the business mannequin. It was about getting the product to indicate itself. In six rounds of golf (the primary two occasions, in London and Portland), have a look at what we’ve achieved to alter the notion of what LIV was all about. The gamers and the followers have spoken and we couldn’t be happier. Each week, we build the product higher and higher and higher. That’s our purpose. Our runway is a extremely lengthy one to maintain constructing, as a result of each week is totally different.

Greg Norman with Donald Trump (r.), Dustin Johnson (second from left) and Bryson DeChambeau (l.) at the LIV Golf pro-am Thursday at Trump Bedminster.
Greg Norman with Donald Trump (r.), Dustin Johnson (second from left) and Bryson DeChambeau (l.) on the LIV Golf pro-am Thursday at Trump Bedminster.

Q: What is your anticipation about the vitality degree this week taking part in within the New York market?

A: Look, this was a market we had been going to give attention to instantly, as a result of the PGA Tour wasn’t centered on it. They’re not taking part in in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, which is insane. So, we needed to ensure that we introduced our product to this market, and New York City is clearly the house of the CEOs and the institutional money. So, it was logical that we get right here earlier than later.

Q: What do you assume the environment at Trump Bedminster might be like?

A: Going into Portland (the second occasion) I used to be nervous due to all of the white noise, and it simply turned out to be white noise. Coming right here it’s just a little bit totally different as a result of it’s President Trump’s property. I used to be extra nervous for Portland than London (the primary occasion) simply due to the sentiment from the senator (Oregon Senator Ron Wyden) and the way he was going in opposition to us — for all flawed causes.

(Editor’s notice: Last month, Wyden accused the Saudi authorities of sportswashing, telling the Associated Press, “It’s just a page out of the autocrats’ playbook covering up injustices by misusing athletics in hopes of normalizing their abuses.”)

Greg Norman (r.) with Jared Kushner on Thursday at Trump Bedminster.
Greg Norman (r.) with Jared Kushner on Thursday at Trump Bedminster.
Daniel William McKnight

Q: Are you shocked by what number of high gamers, akin to Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, have signed on already?

A: The answer is not any, as a result of the variety of conversations I’ve had with all the highest gamers and their understanding of my mindset from three totally different classes — a participant’s class, a brand-building class and from a CEO’s class. From a participant’s class, they knew I had their again. For 45 years, I went by way of each piece of crap these gamers are going by way of, as a result of there was just one establishment within the sport (the PGA Tour) and it was so unfair on us, on the gamers. So, I’m like a canine with a bone from a participant’s perspective.

Q: What is your response to the criticism that has come about taking money from Saudi Arabia, which has such poor human rights data and coverage?

A: We usually are not a political group. We are right here to play golf, serve followers, develop the sport, and provides extra alternatives to gamers. I even have seen first-hand the nice that golf can do all over the world, and Saudi Arabia is not any totally different.

Q: What do you say to the households of the 9/11 victims who’ve accused LIV Golf of taking “blood money,” citing that 15 of the 19 hijackers had been from Saudi Arabia?

A: I provide my deepest sympathy to the households of 9/11. My coronary heart goes out to anybody affected by that tragedy. While some could not agree, I proceed to imagine that golf is a power for good all over the world, and that features Saudi Arabia.

Greg Norman with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and their children on Thursday.
Greg Norman with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and their kids on Thursday.
Daniel William McKnight

Q: Since the beginning, you’ve insisted the mission has not been about taking the PGA Tour down, however desirous to work with them. Do you continue to see a coexistence between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour with compromise on either side?

A: One hundred %. We haven’t any intention to attempt to destroy the PGA Tour. Every step of the best way we’ve constructed our mannequin to work throughout the ecosystem and provides all people the chance to work inside that ecosystem. It’s professional golf. There’s such a easy answer, it’s ridiculous. I can’t speak about it, as a result of it’s a course of we’ve gone by way of with our authorized crew realizing all the things that’s within the guidelines and rules. But it’s not a tough repair, it’s actually not. And the longer they do it (droop gamers), the much less we’re frightened about it as a result of now we have extra folks coming in and wanting to speculate.

Q: The largest destructive to that is the very best gamers within the sport have develop into separated due to the PGA Tour suspensions. Is {that a} concern of yours?

A: It is cut up now due to the best way the PGA Tour put the stake on the bottom. If the PGA Tour got here to us once we reached out to them to grasp what our business mannequin is, stroll them by way of it, we wouldn’t be on this place. Like in any business deal, you sit down and also you see what they’ve to supply. “OK, I like all of it, I like some of it, I don’t like any of it.’’ If you don’t like any of it, it’s, “OK, how do we work to fix it?” I’m not that skilled at business, however I’ve by no means seen anyone method it like this. So, if (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) had achieved it to start with, he would have seen many, many alternatives.

Q: Regarding Monahan, are you continue to as keen now as you had been then to work with the PGA Tour?

A: If he desires to return and sit down proper right here proper now, I’d sit down with him and say, “OK Jay, what’s your problem? What are your issues?”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan
Getty Images

Q: Is there part of you that’s shocked that Monahan and the PGA Tour didn’t take LIV Golf extra significantly?

A: You’ve obtained to recollect, I’ve obtained their playbook from ’94-95 (when Norman tried to begin a world tour). They’ve virtually performed it again to the T. It’s virtually similar. It’s virtually a mirror, step-by-step — even to a remark they made about the DOJ (Department of Justice, which introduced lately it’s investigating the PGA Tour for its suspension of gamers who’re taking part in in LIV occasions), saying, “We’ve done this before and we’re confident we can do it again.” It’s a very totally different world at present than it was again then. And, oh, by the best way, there’s one one that’s been in the midst of it twice now and is aware of the playbook, and that’s me. What they did in ’94 (thwart Norman in beginning a world tour), they assume they will do once more. We’ll see the way it performs out.

Q: What had been the issues PGA Tour did in ’94 to thwart your efforts to begin a world tour?

A: Lobbying. When the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) investigated the PGA Tour again then, they interviewed me and I instructed them precisely what I needed to do and the way I needed to incorporate the gamers and get them fairness and gamers had been nonetheless going to play on the PGA Tour and that it wasn’t one or the opposite. The FTC on the time voted 4-0 to research the PGA Tour. [The commissioner Tim] Finchem went to the Hill (Capitol Hill in Washington. D.C.) and lobbied. He was a lobbyist (marketing campaign chairman) for [former Presidential candidate Walter] Mondale.

Q: What’s your information of what the PGA Tour is doing now to battle LIV Golf?

A: We know now that the PGA Tour is lobbying the Hill arduous proper now. We even understand how a lot money they’re spending. It labored for them up to now and so they’re hoping it’s going to work for them now. If they wish to hearth a serve throughout the online at me at 140 [mph], it’s coming again at them at 150. It’s coming again at you, man. It ain’t a block. It’s ain’t a slice. It’s coming again at you tougher and also you higher have your s–t collectively.

Q: What is your confidence about the end result of the DOJ investigation?

A: It’s arduous to say. They’ve obtained to undergo their course of. We really feel very, very, excellent about our position and our case and our rights. The product is talking for itself.

Q: What do you make of the notion that since you tried to begin that world tour within the ’90s, combating Deane Beaman and Tim Finchem, this can be a continuation of vendetta?

A: Look, that’s a very simple, shallow remark to make. It’s a simple out. This entire notion about me and Finchem, Beaman and Monahan, is it true? Yeah, to a level it’s true, as a result of I did problem them on participant rights.

Q: What drives you most about your involvement in LIV Golf?

A: Maybe my legacy is that this, not what I did on the golf course. What I did on the golf course gave me the chance to see this opportunity and allowed me to do that.

Q: What’s your tackle the general public berating Phil Mickelson has taken since becoming a member of LIV Golf?

A: Well, they wanted a piñata, proper? The destructive folks wanted somebody to take a swing at. Obviously, the factor that was written (by author Alan Shipnuck in what Mickelson stated was a “private conversation” — which Shipnuck denied — throughout which he referred to as the Saudis “scary motherf–kers” and saying he was utilizing LIV as leverage in opposition to the PGA Tour) that was one of many largest obstacles ever thrown at (Mickelson). I really feel sorry for Phil, I really feel sorry it obtained on the market. I really feel sorry for Phil if it’s in any method true, then he put himself in a extremely robust position. And I’m completely happy for Phil, as a result of he understood the worth of what LIV may do for him and the place he needed to go and have a look at the longer term. He was polarizing with the Tour as a result of he realized his market worth was underutilized.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson
Getty Images

Q: What is your relationship with Mickelson?

A: It wasn’t an in depth relationship earlier than he signed on. Since he’s come on board, he’s engaged, he’s in. Phil sends me lengthy assessments and thanks me. On a communicative degree, he’s in all probability in contact greater than another participant.

Q: Can LIV Golf ever recreate the drama the massive tournaments produce, the best way they matter, notably within the last rounds?

A: We’ll build into it. It’s identical to the transition of the Ryder Cup. When it was UK in opposition to the US, it was a butcher present. It wasn’t even a contest. When they opened it up to broaden to the European gamers, it turned a contest and the Ryder Cup took off.

Q: How necessary is it to LIV that one of many marquee stars wins an occasion, possibly even this week?

A: Of course, we would like that. It’s going to occur. It’s like how nice it will have been if one of many LIV gamers received the (British) Open. They will win, and after they do win it’ll go up one other degree.

Donald Trump (l.) and Greg Norman (r.) on Thursday.
Donald Trump (l.) and Greg Norman (r.) on Thursday.

Q: There are fixed rumors of extra gamers coming to LIV as soon as the PGA Tour season is full, together with Bubba Watson. What do you see your roster trying like in two months?

A: There’s extra stuff coming. The finest method for me to answer that’s we wouldn’t have put the announcement out at present about launching the league (in 2023) if there wasn’t a really clear indicator of how strong we really feel about the gamers we’ll have going into subsequent year.

Q: How do you see the World Ranking factors scenario unfolding, with the entire key figures on the board being heads of organizations which can be anti-LIV (PGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America, R&A, Augusta National)?

A: That’s a superb question. The one that’s on the helm is extraordinarily clever and understanding about rising the sport of golf — Peter Dawson (the previous head of the R&A). He will get it. Peter and I’ve had open discussions about this. I flew to Scotland to take a seat down and have dinner with him. He has our application, so he’ll undergo the precise course of to get it there. We introduced up recusing Mohahan and (Keith) Pelley (the DP World Tour commissioner) and (Martin) Slumbers (who heads the R&A) and all people who’s had a destructive remark about LIV, and so they can not vote. They can’t. From an OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) standpoint, if I’m in (Dawson’s) sneakers, I’m getting unbiased authorized recommendation.

Q: Everyone is ready for Augusta National to weigh in, but their high man, Fred Ridley, has been silent.

A: I spoke to Fred Ridley. They’ve weighed in fairly arduous in opposition to (LIV). The majors ought to keep Switzerland, they’ve a accountability for one occasion, not a league. But it additionally tells you is there a cabal there? This is the slippery slope you go down about what LIV is beginning to expose.

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