September 21, 2023

Greg Norman declares LIV Golf going nowhere despite Rory McIlroy’s swipe

Greg Norman hits back at Rory McIlroy as he tells staff: LIV Golf isn't going anywhere - Getty Images /Rob Carr

Greg Norman hits back at Rory McIlroy as he tells staff: LIV Golf isn’t going anywhere – Getty Images /Rob Carr

Warring to the end, Greg Norman fights on. LIV Golf’s CEO has stated that the breakaway league is “going nowhere” but will instead thrive through the merger of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

Norman was not involved in the peace negotiations between Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Investment Fund and chairman of LIV, and three members of the PGA Tour board, including commissioner Jay Monahan.

Indeed, it is believed that the Australian was completely unaware of the talks and only found out about the bombshell news a few minutes before the announcement was released. And after both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods stated that a settlement could only be reached if Norman was out of the picture, it’s hard to imagine the two-time big winner playing a dominant role in the new setup.

But as the respective sides work through the details, Norman is ostensibly still in the LIV hotseat and seems determined to present a positive front.

“The tap is now wide open for commercial sponsorship, blue-chip companies, TV networks,” Norman told the LIV staff on a conference call Wednesday ahead of McIlroy’s scheduled press conference ahead of the RBC Canadian Open, according to SI. “LIV is and will remain an independent company. Our business model will not change. We have changed history and we are not going anywhere.”

There are over 100 employees at the Florida and London headquarters and Norman was probably just trying to boost morale, not least his own. It is clear that Performance 45, the UK-based agency, will remain involved, having effectively run LIV since former COO Atul Khosla left under mysterious circumstances in late 2022. In January, Telegraph Sport revealed that Norman was moved up and has largely been in a figurehead role ever since.

It will be intriguing to see if the 68-year-old Norman holds that position for the second half of the second LIV season, which will feature seven more $25 million events ending in Jeddah in November. By then, the league will know if it has a place in the new world order, though Monahan’s statements to the media don’t bode well for the circuit.

When Monahan was asked if he saw a situation where LIV would co-exist with the PGA Tour in its current guise in 2024, he wasn’t positive.

“I can’t see that scenario, but I haven’t gotten the full evaluation, the full empirical evaluation of LIV that I’m going to do to comment on that,” he said. “But I don’t see that scenario, no. To me, all the scenarios you come up with about that bridge between the PGA Tour and LIV are longer term.”

McIlroy wants LIV gone – the branding, the format, everything. “I would say an element of team golf could still be there,” McIlroy said. “I hope it won’t fall under the LIV umbrella. It will hopefully look very different from what LIV has been.”
McIlroy has been briefed by fellow Jimmy Dunne, a close friend who played a pivotal role in bringing Monahan to the table after the PGA Tour supremo refused to even support the idea for so long. Dunne said to McIlroy, “Rory, sometimes you have 280 [yards] about water, you just have to go for it.” McIlroy firmly believes that with the majority of the vote on the new board, Sawgrass HQ is in charge.

“The PIF would continue to spend the money on golf, but at least the PGA TOUR now controls how that money is spent,” he said before emphasizing his disdain for the 54-hole competition. “I still hate LIV. I hope it goes away. And I fully expect that to be the case. There may be a team element, but I don’t think it will look anything like LIV. And I think that’s a good thing.”

However, Al Rumayyan is the chairman of the board and as PIF prepares to invest billions in the new entity, he will clearly have a huge input and, in addition to finances, pride will be a factor in the fight for power.

Al Rummayan – who is also chairman of Newcastle United – insists LIV will have a place – with or without the controversial branding. “There is no doubt that the LIV model has positively changed golf,” he said. “We believe there are opportunities for the game to evolve while at the same time preserving its storied history and tradition.”

Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Jay Monahan on television

Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Jay Monahan on television

Where this leaves the poor LIV staff – and there are many good people and fine professionals within the group who, despite the outrageous funding, still managed to pull off a near miracle in getting the group’s improbable operation done – is a puzzle. , although this is essentially a commercial partnership, there will be roles for some at least.

The top names on the LIV rosters have contracts and will naturally be part of whatever emerges from the extensive analysis of the collective assets, haggling and planning that will characterize the next few months. Then there’s the small matter of a signed US TV contract with CW and at least one commercial partnership.

As this is all disentangled and then reformed, it will indeed be business as usual for the LIV circus. He will then stop in Valderrama on the Costa del Sol in three weeks’ time and in St Albans the following week. Norman may well be at the helm of this European tour – sticking to his delusion or not.

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