After years of trying, months of rumors and weeks of leaks, Saudi ambitions to play a bigger role in professional golf are starting to transform from vague concept to some semblance of reality.
The embodiment of these ambitions is Greg Norman, with the multi-time major winner signing on to become the CEO of LIV Golf Investment, a company that is 80 percent owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi-backed investment fund. Norman's first order of business, so to speak, was to sign a 10-year deal with the Asian Tour to create a 10-event series that will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour -- complete with a $200 million commitment to invest in the series.
Of course, that action is quite scripted, following the Saudis' commitment to the Asian Tour, which has not run a tournament since the global pandemic began. The Asian Tour agreed to a decade-long run to sanction the Saudi International and make that tournament its flagship event in the eyes of the Official World Golf Ranking. The Saudi International, which began in 2019, had been un-sanctioned by the European Tour after that circuit entered into a stratetic alliance with the PGA Tour in an effort to head off the formation of one or both of two brewing rival golf leagues, the Saudi-backed Super Golf League or the Premier Golf League.
Both rogue concepts have attempted to get off the ground with billions of dollars in private backing, looking to lure top players away from the PGA Tour with the promise of large signing bonuses, a shorter schedule, guaranteed prize money and even potential partial ownership of the circuit. Neither concept has yet to announce any player commitments or a schedule, and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has said players who defect from the PGA Tour will be banned for life.
So, now what?
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