Say what you want about Greg Norman, but he’s certainly done his fair share to shake up the often staid world of professional golf.
He’s doing just that to great effect right now.
Mentioning Norman’s name in the halls of PGA Tour Headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Florida is probably enough to have staff employees severely reprimanded. I dare say his name isn’t a welcome one at European Tour headquarters in leafy Virginia Water either.
Norman, now the chairman of Saudi backed LIV Golf Investments, has certainly become a thorn in the sides of the world’s two largest circuits for his steadfast support for a proposed new golf tour with the cash to take on both circuits combined. However, the world’s top players might just be silent fans of the two-time Open champion.
The tours have certainly reacted to Norman’s proposed conquest to
“unlock the sport’s untapped potential … This is only the beginning,” Norman said on becoming LIV chairman. ““LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf.”
The $200 million LIV is investing in 10 Asian Tour events is probably just the beginning. That’s mere parking money change for the Saudis.
The European Tour has just revealed a 2022 schedule featuring over $200 million in prize money, with tournaments worth a minimum $2 million and a $10 million season ending tournament. The PGA Tour has already introduced a $40 million Player Impact Programme; announced a total purse increase of $35 million; an additional $15 million for the FedEx Cup; the Players Championship is now worth $20 million; and anyone who plays their 15-tournament requirement gets $50,000.
The rich get even richer. And the message from both circuits to their members? There’s no need to join a rival circuit since you’re being well renumerated.
The Australian’s threat to global hegemony has certainly ensured the top players are all about to become considerably richer. Perhaps Norman might receive a few Christmas cards from multimillionaires this festive season. Not just millionaires. A friend who plays the Asian Tour sent me this message when LIV announced its sponsorship of the Asian Tour.
“good news about asian tour. wow. going to be unreal.”
It is going to be unreal for a circuit that has struggled before and during the pandemic. The Saudi’s considerable investment is, indeed, good news for the Asian Tour.
Furthermore, Norman’s influence and that of the proposed new Saudi golf league has forced PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to go even further to placate those members perhaps thinking of grabbing Saudi cash. According to former colleague Eamon Lynch, the PGA Tour is now considering holding four to six limited-field tournaments outside the United States. It’s also considering a team component and up front, guaranteed money for the top stars, something unheard of in professional golf apart from shady appearance fee deals.
Hmmm, wonder where Monahan got those ideas? What’s that old saying about imitation being the highest form of flattery?
Those bored rigid of the never ending, 52-week a year circus of 72-hole stroke play events say 'yes please' to anything that will shake things up. Watching European and PGA Tour events nowadays, especially the first three rounds, is becoming tedious in the extreme.
This isn’t the first time Norman has dared take on the game’s professional circuits. Remember when he had the audacity to suggest a world tour back in 1994? The PGA Tour blocked that notion, only to steal Norman’s idea two years later with the introduction of the World Golf Championships.
Norman seems as determined now to take on the suits in Ponte Vedra as he was 27 years ago. The difference is, he has the cash now. Loads of it. Don’t think the moves the PGA and European Tour have made are going to stop those in Saudi Arabia intent on becoming a major player in this royal & ancient game. They not only have the money, they also seem to have the patience. Buying the Asian Tour could be the route to a truly global circuit to take on the might of the two main tours.
And the real winners? The players. They’re laughing all the way to the bank from Norman’s attempt to play the conqueror.
#JustSaying: “I never say ‘No pay, no play.’ I say leave it to the sponsor to decide.” Seve Ballesteros during his appearance money dispute with the European Tour