Former golfer Greg Norman to head new Saudi-backed series

Greg Norman
Australian Greg Norman became a successful entrepreneur after a golf career which saw him win the Open twice

Greg Norman will lead a newly-formed company, backed by Saudi Arabian money, which wants to revolutionise professional golf across the world.

The former world number one has been named as the CEO of LIV Golf Enterprises, which is committing more than $200m (£145m) to 10 new Asian Tour events that will be staged annually over the next decade.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which helped bankroll the recent takeover of Newcastle United, is the majority shareholder in the new firm.

“This is only the beginning,” Norman stated.

The link-up with the Asian Tour is thought to be a first step towards a lucrative golf super league which will try to attract the game’s biggest names.

“LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create new opportunities across worldwide professional golf,” Norman said.

The company has yet to reveal any star signatories for the rumoured ‘super league’ project.

It has been reported that world number three Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose are among those who have been approached.

In the early 1990s, when two-time Open champion Norman was at the height of his powers, he first put forward the idea of a world tour.

The proposed circuit was fought off by established tours who introduced World Golf Championships events as a result.

The announcement of Norman as the figurehead of the new project renews pressure on the American-based PGA Tour and the European Tour.

They formed a strategic alliance in November 2020 after rumours of ‘super league’ projects first surfaced.

The London-based Premier Golf League wants to set up a multi-million dollar, 48-player circuit that would also include a team element.

Reports then surfaced of a similar project, to be funded by Saudi Arabia’s PIF.

“We will be a cooperative and respectful supporter of the game at every level, and today’s announcement alongside the Asian Tour is the first example of that,” Norman added.

The new series of 10 events, which starts next year, will be played in Asia but also the Middle East and Europe, territories that have been traditional strongholds for the European Tour, which is not commenting on Norman’s appointment.

The Saudi International event, which was previously played under the auspices of the European Tour, becomes the flagship tournament on the Asian Tour with prize money boosted to $5m (£3.65m).

Eight players, including European Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood and Graeme McDowell, are said to have asked for releases from the PGA Tour to play in the February tournament.

The others are world number three Johnson, 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson, Americans Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak, and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.

In July this year it was reported that the PGA Tour would refuse to allow players to compete in the tournament.

Tour members are required to have a waiver to compete on other circuits.

Because the Saudi tournament is no longer sanctioned by the European Tour, the American outfit indicated to player managers that permissions would not be granted.

“I have been a staunch supporter and believer in playing and developing golf in Asia for more than four decades,” Norman said.

“The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential.

“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.”

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