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Norman salutes Saudi International field for ‘realising their value’ and ‘elevating the game’

By GolfDigestme.com 
As the golf world awaits the anticipated PGA Tour-DP World Tour alliance counterpunch to Monday’s shock Saudi International field announcement, Greg Norman hasn’t missed an opportunity to throw a few more jabs of his own.

The LIV Golf Investments CEO has penned an impassioned letter thanking the 25 high-profile players who have confirmed their participation in the $5 million Asian Tour event – Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson among them.

In the letter, seen by Australian Golf Digest Editor Brad Clifton, Norman praised the players for the “strength of your actions” in standing up to “anti-competitive threats”.

It remains unclear if the players will be granted releases by the PGA and/or DP World Tour to play at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club near Jeddah from Feb. 3-6.

That has only emboldened Norman who heads up LIV Golf Investments, the Saudi-financed company which emerged from the shadows last month when it announced a $200 million stake in the Asian Tour, apparently as part of an ambitious but still unconfirmed plan to progress their own elite start-up league.

Norman thanked the 25 players for “taking a positive and important step in changing the way in which professional bodies should reduce controls that limit the game’s ability to flourish at a truly global level.”

The full letter, sent to players this morning, reads:

I want to share my undivided support and endorsement for the stance taken in announcing your participation in the Saudi International.

You are standing up for your rights, as professional athletes, and for what is right and best for the global development of the sport of golf.

Whilst you may not be aware, this has been a long-standing issue for the world’s best players – seeking the ability to play as far and as wide as they choose to maximise their value, without threat of penalty or otherwise – and today is a positive and important step in changing the way in which professional bodies should reduce controls that limit the game’s ability to flourish at a truly global level. 

Without this change, you will never realise your individual and collective value, or elevate the game to the levels it deserves. Simply put, the anticompetitive threats and actions these professional bodies have taken are designed to prevent fair competition, limit the game’s growth, and harm your ability to realise your true value.

I wanted to reach out directly to share the respect I have for you and the strength of your actions, and also to voice the level of support you have from so many sectors of the industry, who are greatly encouraged by your leadership and the new horizons in golf’s future. 

As CEO of LIV Golf Investments, you have my full support and backing. Keep playing hard.

Yours sincerely, Greg.

Greg Norman
CEO – LIV Golf Investments

The first three editions of the Saudi International were sanctioned by the European Tour, now rebadged as the DP World Tour. But the event will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour for the next 10 years after a deal penned with Golf Saudi after the then European Tour turned its back on Saudi overtures and hitched its wagon to the PGA Tour.

A spokesperson for the DP World Tour, when reached by Golf Digest overnight, had no comment about the status of the waivers for the Saudi International. A spokesperson from the PGA Tour noted: “We have not granted any conflicting event releases for the Saudi International tournament. Per PGA Tour regulations, a decision on conflicting event releases can be made up until 30 days before the event’s first round.”

If waivers are not forthcoming and the players choose to compete anyway, it will test the resolve of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour who have previously tabled the prospect of sanctions. That would in turn likely trigger legal action as players challenge whether the tours can restrict their schedules and access to non-PGA Tour and DP World Tour events.

Potentially, Monday’s announcement could prove a test for Golf Saudi to see whether previous threats of disciplinary action by the PGA Tour would be acted on at all. If those threats prove to be less of a deterrent than originally believed, it might push Golf Saudi, through its newly formed LIV Golf Investments company, to sign several of these players to contracts that would commit them to play in a new Asian Tour affiliated series of events unveiled last month when Norman was named CEO.

Golf Week’s Eamon Lynch predicts the fallout might be less dramatic.

additional reporting by Ryan Herrington and Kent Gray.

 

Golf Digest Middle East

Launched in 2008, Golf Digest Middle East is the #1 golf magazine in the region, featuring local content and exclusive articles from the world's leading professionals

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