Greg Norman suggests Rory McIlroy has been ‘brainwashed,’ Jack Nicklaus is a ‘hypocrite,’ Tiger Woods was offered ‘high nine digits’ by Saudi-backed LIV Golf

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Greg Norman, the public face of the breakaway LIV Golf series, says the executives and agents who currently run golf “are conspiring against LIV to protect an antiquated system that prevents golfers from realizing their own power and worth amid a global movement of athlete empowerment.”

In a story by the Washington Post titled, “The Shark is on the attack again,” Norman also criticized Rory McIlroy and others, suggesting they’ve been “brainwashed” against the LIV movement. McIlroy has been vocal in speaking out in favor of the PGA Tour.

Last month, at a media event to promote the first LIV Golf Series event in London, which is scheduled to tee off this week, Norman, who is the chief executive of the LIV Golf Invitational, funded primarily by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, appeared to downplay the 2018 killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Everybody has owned up to it, right?” Norman said, according to London-based newspaper The Times. “It has been spoken about, from what I’ve read, going on what you guys reported. Take ownership, no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”

In the Washington Post article, he appears to take a similar stance.

“I’m not in this thing for Khashoggi or anything like that,” he says. “I’m in here because of the game of golf. That’s what I care about. If I focus on the game of golf and don’t get dragged into this other stuff, that’s my priority.”

Asked about his conscience, Norman again looks bewildered.

“Every country,” he says, “has got a cross to bear.”

Norman says that LIV Golf approached representatives of Tiger Woods, hoping to woo him over from the PGA Tour. Woods has publicly confirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour on several occasions, but according to the Washington Post story:

“The tour’s consultant also pitched representatives for Woods, who once staged his own public coup with the PGA Tour over marketing rights. Norman says Woods turned down a deal that was ‘mind-blowingly enormous; we’re talking about high nine digits.’ “

Norman also called Jack Nicklaus a hypocrite after recently speaking out against LIV. According to a report in May by Sports Illustrated, a complaint was filed May 13 against the golf legend in the Supreme Court of the State of New York by New York businessman Howard Milstein, executive chairman of the Nicklaus Companies who also oversees Golf Magazine and Golf.com. The suit alleges tortious interference, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, alleging among other things Nicklaus had negotiations with the Saudi Arabia-funded Public Investment Fund, the backers of the LIV Golf Series.

Nicklaus says he told LIV on two occasions he wasn’t interested. Norman says that’s not exactly true, claiming that “Nicklaus attended a LIV presentation and later wrote in an email that the new tour had his blessing.”

“Quote-unquote, he said: ‘This is good for our game. If it’s good for the game of golf, it’s good by me,’ ” Norman says. “So, you want the facts? You’ve got the facts. Know what you said before you open your mouth.”

Money is the driving force behind the LIV Golf Series. Norman insists that first payday after the London event will be a game-changer.

“The players who decide to come on board, God bless them,” he told the Post. “They’re going to make a lot of money.”

USA TODAY’s Cydney Henderson and Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio contributed to this article.