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Greg Norman Announced as Head of New Pro Golf League

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To say press releases are an efficient way of delivering clear information would be a bit of an overstatement. These carefully crafted statements are designed to give the appearance of transparency, but usually leave us with more questions than answers. An early Friday release by a newcomer in the industry was no different. LIV Golf Investments shook up the golf world offering broad details regarding a new venture they are launching. Here are three items plucked from its two pages:

(1) Greg Norman has been named at the CEO of this private company, which has offices in the United States (Norman lives in South Florida) and Great Britain (Norman won two British Opens). An Asian office is planned, the release says. Near its bottom, you can read this LIV Golf Investments mission statement: “Its remit is to holistically improve the health of professional golf on a truly global scale and support existing stakeholders to help unlock the sport’s untapped potential.” 

(2) LIV Golf Investments says it will make a 10-year commitment of at least $200 million to underwrite 10 new full-field Asian Tour events, to be held in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

(3) The majority shareholder of LIV Golf Investments is the Public Investment Fund, the investing arm of the Saudi Arabian government.

It seems a simple internet search could bring about more details than we gathered from the press release. Here’s more about what we learned after diving a little deeper into the recent developments:

(1a) Greg Norman, per a Golfweek report this week, is expected to be named commissioner of a new Saudi-backed, small-field, star-driven golf league which plans to begin play next year.  It was Norman who first launched the idea of a small-field, star-driven golf tour nearly 30 years ago.

(2a) Compared to the cash-rich PGA Tour, with its never-ending season, where the combined purses for 50 events in 2021 was $392 million, the Asian Tour’s schedule and finances are modest. In 2019, the Asian Tour’s total purses were under $20 million for its 24 events.  

(3a) Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the secretive, and vastly wealthy, investment company of the Saudi Arabian government, a fund that is chaired by Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and minister of defense, according to The Wall Street Journal and other business-news media outlets. A report released this year by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence linked the murder of the Saudi critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to Mohammed bin Salman. PIF has also made substantial investments in a range of publicly-traded U.S. companies, including Boeing, Uber, Disney and Bank of America, per news stories about the PIF’s SEC regulatory filings.

The Friday LIV Golf press release makes a reference to the hiring of several “high-profile C-Suite executives,” though no names are listed. The press release carries a West Palm Beach dateline but uses chiefly British phrases like “prize fund” (known typically as “the purse” in the United States) and renders the sum $200 million as “$200m,” as the British papers do. And then there’s the use of the word amongst. (Very British.) There’s something mysterious and veiled, really, about the entire release.

Norman hints at that when he is quoted in it saying, “This is only the beginning. LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf.”

His statement seemingly provides more information while not giving too much away in terms of what is yet to come. Let’s take a minute to break down just what Norman is saying here.

It means that this Friday-morning press release is probably little more than a warm-up act for the next LIV Golf Investments announcement, one that will likely offer some limited details about the Saudi-backed star-driven golf league that Norman will reportedly oversee. Norman has been associated with such a league through most of the pandemic.

This isn’t just a recent dream for Norman either. He’s been building up to this moment for close to 30 years. He even once took his plan to the PGA Tour head in hopes of getting even more countries involved in the pro golf scene.

At the time, Norman made it clear that the PGA Tour expected golfers to participate in so many U.S. events, it allowed little room for much else. He wanted to be able to compete at the pro level in other countries and his schedule didn’t allow for such a venture. World golf events would have been more lucrative for the golfer and that caused a lot of friction between Norman and the Tour.

Norman has never let go of what he believes is the fundamental good sense of such a tour, for professional golfers who want to maximize their earnings and for fans who want to watch more star-driven golf.

And who will provide the major capital commitment he cites? If you’re thinking the Saudi fund, PIF, your logic stands to reason. 

By email, a LIV Golf Investments spokesperson sent a statement from Norman regarding PIF’s investment in LIV Golf to reporters: “I am pleased that the investor base is 100 percent commercially driven by the opportunity to improve golf for all involved. I am happy to partner with this group of investors to bring the significant resources to bear that are necessary for the fundamental changes required for the greater good of the sport.”

As Greg Norman quotes go, it’s not as memorable as what he said Sunday at Augusta in 1996, the day he saw a six-shot disappear before finishing in second place, five shots behind Nick Faldo: “I screwed up. It’s all on me. But losing this Masters is not the end of the world. I still have a pretty good life.”

Of course a Friday-morning press release is not a hot-and-bothered Sunday-night press conference.

Former PGA Tour Commissioner, Deane Beman was another pro who made his way up the ranks in the league. It looks like Norman is seeking to do the same thing. But Beman didn’t have to recruit players. They came to him. Norman will, checkbook in hand.

This article originally appeared on Golf.com.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Good for him ! As far as I know Greg Norman was not only a great golfer but a generous and good friend to many during his life.

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