SUGAR GROVE, Ill. — As LIV Golf prepares to stage its fifth tournament, which is outside of Chicago this week, CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said the upstart circuit has no desire to talk with the rival PGA Tour about a truce.
LIV Golf, financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has been in a fierce battle with the PGA Tour for the best golfers in the world for much of this year. Norman said he tried to talk to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan in the past about trying to figure out how the leagues can coexist, but Norman says he’s no longer interested in doing so.
“We have no interest in sitting down with them, to be honest with you, because our product is working,” Norman told The Australian in an interview this week.
Monahan has been unwilling to sit down with LIV Golf even after several past major championship winners, including Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson, were lured to the new circuit with signing bonuses reportedly worth as much as $100 million to $200 million.
“That’s why we are where we are today,” Norman said. “We tried awfully hard — I know I did personally for the past year. … When we knew we were never going to hear from them, we just decided to go.”
More than two dozen PGA Tour members have defected to LIV Golf, including a handful who have resigned their memberships. Monahan has suspended players who competed in LIV Golf tournaments without conflicting-event releases. Smith, the third-ranked golfer in the world and reigning Open Championship winner, was among the latest wave of players to leave.
A source told ESPN on Thursday that Norman’s attempts to communicate with Monahan included a Feb. 24 letter and a voicemail left by Norman for Monahan shortly before LIV Golf announced its 2022 schedule.
In the letter, Norman accused Monahan of “going too far, being unfair” and likely breaking labor laws by threatening players with lifetime bans and/or suspensions.
“Simply put, you can’t ban players from playing golf,” Norman wrote. “Players have the right and the freedom to play where we like. I know for a fact that many PGA players were and still are interested in playing for a new league, in addition to playing for the Tour. What is wrong with that?
“What is wrong with allowing players to make their own decisions about where to play and how often to play? What is so wrong with player choice? Why do you feel so threatened that you would resort to such a desperate, unwise, and unenforceable threat?”
On Aug. 27, LIV Golf joined a handful of its players in their federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, in which they claim the PGA Tour has used its monopoly power to quash competition and unfairly suspend players for competing in LIV Golf events.
Norman insisted to The Australian that LIV Golf’s plans from the beginning was to be an “additive” to the existing golf ecosystem.
“It was always an additive to all tours,” Norman said. “This notion [that] we’re trying to destroy tours is not true. The PGA Tour is trying to destroy us, it’s as simple as that.”