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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Greg Norman behind new world golf league proposal

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A bombshell is about to rock the status-quo world of professional golf — more specifically the PGA Tour.

A group named LIV Golf Investments is poised to launch a world golf league, according to highly placed golf sources familiar with the venture.

Greg Norman, the 66-year-old golfing icon, has been hired as the CEO of LIV Golf Investments and, according to sources, will be the commissioner of what will be a league headlined by a group of the top-ranked players in the game.

Details of the league’s format and payouts are not yet known, but a source said the target date for it to begin is Spring of 2022. Two other potential iterations of a world golf league, the Premier Golf League and the Super Golf League, failed recently to come to fruition.

Norman, at the height of his playing power when he was ranked No. 1 in the world for a record 331 weeks before Tiger Woods came along and broke his record, tried to launch a world golf tour in 1993-94. It never materialized, mostly because the funding was going to be coming from Norman as well as due to aggressive push-back from the PGA Tour.

As an indication of Norman’s commitment to LIV Golf Investments, he announced that he’s stepping away from his Greg Norman Company interests to focus his time on this new venture, though he will continue with the golf course design arm of his empire.

Greg Norman
Greg Norman
Getty Images

The Post was one of six media outlets granted access to Norman and this announcement. Which players have been targeted and who among them has agreed to participate in the new league have yet to be announced, though sources said those details will be released in the coming weeks.

Which players agree to come on board remains the linchpin to the potential success of the league, because without at least a handful of the biggest names in the game, it’s not likely to draw enough of the global attention it will need.

The first initiative of LIV Golf Investments was forming a partnership with the Asian Tour, investing more than $200 million to support and promote a new 10-tournament series that will be added to the Asian Tour schedule from 2022 onward, with new events across Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

This appears to be a brilliantly deft move on the part of LIV Golf Investors, because its affiliation with the Asian Tour would provide a gateway for its team series events to be sanctioned tournaments that dole out world ranking points, which are the most prominent determinant for players qualifying for major championships.

Players would not agree to play in world golf team events if they were not playing for world ranking points.

“To me, Asia is the most untapped, underused tour I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ Norman said. “This is only the beginning. The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential.

“We see our promotion of these new events as a vital first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform, rich with playing opportunities that create valuable player pathways.”

Those “pathways’’ are believed to lead to the world team events that are in the making, the details of which are still not known. The Asian Tour could become to the world league similar to what the Korn Ferry Tour is to the PGA Tour — a feeder program for talent.

“This is the single biggest development in the history of the Asian Tour and a major milestone for professional golf,” Cho Minn Thant, the commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said.

The public investment fund (PIF) providing the financial backing to this project is out of Saudi Arabia and is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with a diverse international investment portfolio, according to LIV Golf Investments.

This of course will raise eyebrows considering Saudi Arabia’s highly questionable human rights policies. But this wouldn’t be the first set of high-profile tournaments funded by Saudi money.

Aramco, a massive Saudi oil company, is heavily involved in women’s golf. It staged one of its tournaments, a team event, three weeks ago at the Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, L.I., with several of the top LPGA players in the world in the field.

It was won by Jessica Korda, the sister of Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda, and was the first Ladies European Tour event played on U.S. soil.

Norman defended the PIF, saying: “I am pleased that the investor base is 100-percent commercially driven by the opportunity to improve golf for all involved. I am happy to partner with this group of investors to bring the significant resources to bear that are necessary for the fundamental changes required for the greater good of the sport.’’

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