Greg Norman pressed the accelerator on Wednesday as the inevitable collision course between his breakaway series and golf’s traditional tours hit another fractious juncture. After the PGA Tour and DP World Tour mounted a steep roadblock by rejecting players’ requests for releases to play in next month’s launch event at Centurion Club in St Albans, Norman pledged that LIV Golf, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, would “defend, reimburse and represent” players in the event of bans, fines or legal challenges and insisted “we are not going to be stopped”.
It was a defiant response, spoken with almost Trumpian certainty, but there are still plenty of details around the $255million LIV Golf series that remain uncomfortable or obscure. It was initially billed as a rival league and intended to lure away the world’s best players but, after Phil Mickelson said the Saudis were “scary mother*******” with a “horrible human rights record”, players withdrew en masse and the inaugural series will now instead be comprised of eight invitational events in 2022.
The field at Centurion will be made up of 48 players, with Norman claiming 36 of the 40 currently entered are ranked inside the world’s top 150, and Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and, perhaps, Mickelson are expected to be the leading names. It is a disrupting force, of that there is no doubt, but it is not necessarily what was first envisaged. Nor is it yet known if players will now baulk at the prospect of a potential legal battle over their rights to compete on a rival circuit.
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