SPX3,883.31+38.23 0.99%
DIA312.85+2.44 0.79%
IXIC11,516.25+154.40 1.36%

Golf-Norman proud of 'free agency' as LIV Invitational tees off

Golf-Norman proud of 'free agency' as LIV Invitational tees off

reuters.com · 06/09/2022 12:17
Golf-Norman proud of 'free agency' as LIV Invitational tees off

By Martyn Herman

- Former world number one Greg Norman spoke of his pride at bringing "free agency" to golf as his fledgling LIV Invitational Series got underway just north of London on Thursday.

The breakaway series, bankrolled to the tune of $250 million by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), is the richest event in golf's history, but has sparked a bitter power battle.

Speaking shortly before play began at 1315GMT, Australian Norman it was the culmination of a 30-year plan.

"This is what it's all about. To see the players, to feel the caddies, to have the family members coming up to me and I said to all of them 'this is for you guys, this is for you and the fans...'", Australian Norman said.

"We've been trying to get this off the ground for three decades to be honest with you and I just feel so happy for the players, I feel so happy for the fact that we've brought free agency to the game of golf."

The PGA Tour and the Europe-based DP World Tour both declined requests from members for releases to compete at the first event at The Centurion club near St Albans, where the winner of the individual competition will pocket $4 million -- the largest winners' cheque ever in golf.

Shortly after play started, the PGA announced that those players taking part would be suspended from its Tour, a move LIV Golf described as vindictive.

With no halfway cut involved in the 54-hole format, finishing last of the 48 players taking part in the event guarantees $120,000.

The eighth and final event of the series in Miami, the culmination of the team championship, has a $50 million purse.

Despite being engulfed in controversy, Norman said he was proud to be "growing the game of golf".

"The players are going 'oh my gosh we never expected this'," Norman said. "They never expected LIV golf to be what it is today -- they probably never expected the excitement.

"The draft party the other night was mind-bogglingly fantastic. To see the 48 players interact the way they did during the draft party. For me that was a wow factor moment."

The LIV Invitational crowns an individual winner after seven events while a team competition involving 12 teams of four selected by captains such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson at a draft runs alongside.

Norman said the team element made the LIV Series different.

"The individual side of LIV Golf is critically important and we've always made sure that was part of the product," he said.

"But beyond that, when I went to the Ryder Cup for the first time it just blew my mind to see the fan engagement. The player interaction I'll never forget on the first tee.

"That's what's missing and that's why we built this team value for LIV Golf."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

((martyn.herman@thomsonreuters.com; +442075427933; Reuters Messaging: martyn.herman@thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))