Greg Norman declares LIV Golf is going nowhere despite Rory McIlroy swipe

Greg Norman hits back at Rory McIlroy as he tells staff: LIV Golf is going nowhere - Getty Images /Rob Carr
Greg Norman hits back at Rory McIlroy as he tells staff: LIV Golf is going nowhere - Getty Images /Rob Carr

Belligerent ’til the end, Greg Norman fights on. The LIV Golf chief executive has declared that the breakaway league is “not going anywhere” but will instead flourish because of the merger of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

Norman was not involved in the peace negotiations between Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the Public Investment Fund governor and chairperson of LIV, and three members of the PGA Tour board, including commissioner Jay Monahan.

Indeed, it is believed the Australian was not privy to the talks at all and only discovered the bombshell news a few minutes before the announcement was released. And after both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods declared that a settlement could only be reached if Norman was out of the picture, it is difficult to envisage the two-time major winner holding any sort of dominant role in the new set-up.

Yet while the respective parties go through the detail, then Norman is still, ostensibly, in the LIV hotseat and he seems determined to present a positive front.

“The spigot is now wide open for commercial sponsorships, blue-chip companies, TV networks,” Norman told the LIV staff on a conference call on Wednesday before McIlroy’s scheduled press conference ahead of the RBC Canadian Open, according to SI. “LIV is and will continue to be a standalone enterprise. Our business model will not change. We changed history and we’re not going anywhere.”

There are upwards 100 employees in its headquarters across Florida and London and Norman was probably just raising morale, not least his own. It is understood that Performance 45, the England-based agency, will remain involved, after basically running LIV since former COO Atul Khosla left in mysterious circumstances at the end of 2022. In January, Telegraph Sport revealed that Norman was being moved upstairs and has largely been in a figurehead role ever since.

It will be intriguing to see if Norman, 68, keeps that position for the second-half of the second LIV season, which will feature seven more $25 million events concluding in Jeddah in November. By then, the league will know if it has a place in the new world order, although Monahan’s statements to the media do not bode well for the circuit.

When Monahan was asked if he could see a situation in which LIV would exist in 2024 alongside the PGA Tour in its current guise, he was not positive.

“I can’t see that scenario, but I haven’t gotten the full evaluation, the full empirical evaluation of LIV that I’m going to do to be able to comment on that,” he said. “But I don’t see that scenario, no. To me, any scenarios that you’re thinking about that bridge between the PGA Tour and LIV would be longer term in nature.”

McIlroy wants LIV gone - the branding, the format, everything. “I would say an element of team golf might still stay,” McIlroy said. “My hope is it won’t be under the LIV umbrella. It will hopefully look very different to what LIV has been.”
McIlroy has been briefed by fellow Jimmy Dunne, a close friend who held a central part in bringing Monahan to the table, after the PGA Tour supremo had refused to even countenance the idea for so long. Dunne told McIlroy: “Rory, sometimes you got 280 [yards] over water, you just got to go for it.” McIlroy is adamant that with the majority voting powers on the new board, that Sawgrass HQ is in charge.

“The PIF were going to keep spending the money in golf, but at least the PGA TOUR now controls how that money is spent,” he said, before emphasising his disdain for the 54-hole league. “I still hate LIV. I hope it goes away. And I fully expect that it does. There may be a team element, but I don’t think it will look anything like LIV has looked. And I think that’s a good thing.”

However, Al Rumayyan is the board’s chairman and as PIF prepares to invest billions into the new entity, he will clearly have a huge input and, as well as finance, pride will be a factor in the jockeying for power.

Al Rummayan - who is also the chairman of Newcastle United - insists that LIV will have a place - either with the controversial branding or without it. “There is no question that the LIV model has been positively transformative for golf,” he said. “We believe there are opportunities for the game to evolve while also maintaining its storied history and tradition.”

Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Jay Monahan on television
Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Jay Monahan on television

Where this leaves the poor LIV staff - and there are many good people and fine professionals within the group who, despite the outrageous funding, still managed to accomplish a near miracle by getting the unlikely operation off the group as a going concern - is anyone’s guess, although as this is essentially a commercial collaboration there will be roles for at least some.

The top names on the LIV rosters have contracts and will obviously be part of whatever emerges from the exhaustive analysis of the collective assets, horse-trading and schedule-forming that will characterise the next few months. There is also the little matter of a signed US TV contract with CW and at least one commercial partnership.

As this is all unentangled and then reformed, it will, indeed, be business as usual for the LIV circus. It next pulls up at Valderrama on the Costa del Sol in three weeks time and then St Albans the following week. Norman might well be at the helm for this European roundtrip - still clinging to his delusion or not.

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