Greg Norman says LIV Golf will ensure players are not financially penalised if they defy the main men’s tours and play in the new series of big-money tournaments.
Norman, the chief executive and commissioner of Saudi-backed LIV Golf, has pledged to cover any fines that players incur and fund legal action to repeal any bans issued.
The Australian former world No1 spoke yesterday at Centurion Club just outside London, where the first $25m LIV Golf Invitational Series event is due to be held on 9-11 June.
It came after the PGA Tour and DP World Tour said they would not agree to release players bound to their circuits to play the LIV Golf events.
“It’s not a threat, we anticipated it,” said Norman. “All the players I’ve told: we’ve got your back. We’ll defend, we’ll reimburse and we’ll represent – simple as that.”
England’s Lee Westwood and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson are among the high-profile players believed to have agreed to play in the new $255m series.
Norman said LIV Golf has $2bn of backing, from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and “an incredible legal team” but did not want the matter to end up in court.
“This is very fixable. We always wanted to be shoulder to shoulder with the ecosystem of golf. We’re not looking for the fight, we never have,” he added.
Norman called the PGA Tour’s stance “anti-golfer, anti-fan and anti-competitive” and accused it of presiding over an “illegal monopoly”.
“As I stated in my letter to the commissioner, surely you jest,” he said in response to the tour’s refusal to release its players.
“No tour owns the game of golf and we feel we are on the right side of history. Today could be the most important in the history of professional golf since the tour broke away from the PGA of America 53 years ago.”
Norman admitted that the tours’ threat to ban players if they took part in LIV Golf tournaments, forced the organisation to change its plans earlier this year.
Instead of launching this year with a league system comprising 12 teams of four players, the series will begin as a series of eight individual invitational events.
But the plan remains to establish a league of franchises that it is hoped will grow in value like those in cricket’s Indian Premier League, with that format due to be implemented in 2024.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have distanced themselves from LIV Golf’s plans, but Norman said the venture would not rely on attracting the biggest names.
“If none of the top 20 wanted to come in we’d still go ahead. There’s still value in there,” he said.
“Imagine if that 15-year-old kid, TK [Ratchanon Chantananuwat], came and won the first event. He’s the next superstar. We’re giving that opportunity to that kid to show the next generation is equal to if not better than the current one.”
LIV Golf’s commercial chief Sean Bratches said all events in the series would be shown for free on its website and YouTube.
It has not agreed any deals with broadcasters but Bratches said they would be happy to “make the economics work for” linear television channels with space in their schedules and appetite to carry the series.