A group led by Greg Norman is the latest new venture to prepare to offer an alternative competition to the dominant PGA Tour in professional golf.
On Friday, 66-year-old Norman, who is a multiple major champion and the world’s top-ranked player for more than five years, announced his partnership with LIV Golf Investments, whose major shareholder is the Public Investment Fund, an investment arm of Saudi Arabia’s government.
Norman’s group has pledged to host another 10 events on the Asian Tour over the next decade. But the company’s goal is to have a prominent global presence, with an early start next year.
“This is just the beginning,” Norman said in a statement. “LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities in global professional golf.”
The announcement comes just weeks after a group led by the Public Investment Fund bought Premier League football team Newcastle United after a years-long pursuit. That deal was nearly derailed by the fund’s involvement; critics of Saudi Arabia say the PIF’s investments in sports are just an attempt by the kingdom to cover up allegations of human rights abuses.
For over 25 years, Norman has hoped to create a global golf tour to rival the PGA Tour. In the 1990s, he proposed a world golf tour, trying to lure top players to play in a collection of small field events that would have gotten bigger purses. The then PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, managed to fend off the tour from Norman, who viewed the PGA Tour as unwanted competition on his circuit.
Since then, several versions of a world tour that would challenge the PGA Tour without significant change in the elite professional golf landscape have been proposed. The latest was the Premier Golf League, based in London, which had a plan for more than 15 tournaments and a limited field of 48 players to start in 2023. A host of PGA Tour players, most notably Rory McIlroy, who was then No. 1 in the men’s global rankings, were emphatic about their disinterest in the new competition. The PGA Tour also informed its players that if they played in the starting league, they would not be allowed to participate in the PGA Tour.
Known for his daring play and attacking style – his nickname is “the shark” – Norman is fearless.
“The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share an ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe to be significant untapped potential,” said Norman. “We see our promotion of these new events as an essential first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform rich in play opportunities that create valuable player paths.”