Jack Nicklaus reveals he turned down two offers in excess of $100m to be face of Saudi rebel tour

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Jack Nicklaus reveals he turned down two offers in excess of $100m to be face of Saudi rebel tour - REUTERS
Jack Nicklaus reveals he turned down two offers in excess of $100m to be face of Saudi rebel tour - REUTERS

Jack Nicklaus has revealed he twice shunned Saudi offers of more than $100 million to be the face of the rebel circuit, before the Kingdom turned to Greg Norman.

As an 18-time major winner who, along with Tiger Woods, is regarded as the greatest male player of all time, Nicklaus, 82, would have been a stunning appointment to front the $255m LIV Golf Invitational Series that kicks off with its first $25m even in St Albans in three weeks’ time.

Yet despite having close links with Saudi Arabia - he is currently designing a course near Riyadh, funded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - Nicklaus rejected the advances, with the Saudis instead appointing the Australian.

"I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg [Norman] is doing," Nicklaus told firepitcollective.com. "I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, 'Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour.'"

In 1968, Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were the key figures in golf’s first breakaway when the PGA Tour branched off from the PGA of America. Nicklaus has hosted the Memorial tournament for 46 years in his home state of Ohio and also hosts the Honda Classic. He is firmly against the Saudi bid to revolutionise the elite end of the game

"The PGA Tour’s brought millions and millions of dollars to communities, it’s brought great competition, great television,” Nicklaus said in an interview earlier this year. "Why would I not support that? Instead, I’m going to go support for my own benefit, see 40 guys break away from the PGA Tour at the whim of an advertising agency in Saudi Arabia? What happens to the other guys? I just don’t like it. I don’t think it’s right."

Nicklaus’s stance has provided rich comfort for the sport’s traditional powers as they try to ward off the threat, although they might have been alarmed about his comments on former president Donald Trump, who is staging two of the LIV Golf events at his courses, including the $50m finale at Trump Doral.

Trump is 'a student of golf and a formidable figure in the game'

This week’s USPGA, the second major of the season, was supposed to be staged at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey, but the PGA of America decided to cancel the contract the day after the storming of the Capital last January.

Nicklaus was not impressed by the reactive move and this presumably applies as well to the R&A, who have declined to host an Open at Trump Turnberry. Nicklaus endorsed Trump’s candidacy in the last US election and is sticking by his friend.

"This move is cancel culture," Nicklaus said. "Donald Trump may be a lot of things, but he loves golf and he loves this country. He’s a student of the game and a formidable figure in the game. What he does in the future in golf will depend on what the cancel culture will allow him to do."

The switch to Southern Hills, Tulsa was welcomed by most. Certainly, Woods feels comfortable at the Oklahoma layout having won the most recent of his four Wanamaker Trophies there in 2007.

Woods again played nine holes of practice on Monday, reporting that he feels “much stronger” than at Augusta, where he made the cut in last month’s Masters in his first competitive event in 17 months, following a car crash that almost cost him his right leg.

Bryson DeChambeau is also at Southern Hills checking his fitness. The 2020 US Open champion underwent an operation on his wrist straight after the Masters and his chances of teeing it up this week were initially discounted. But after a quicker than expected recovery, the controversial Californian is attempting to play.

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