Saudi breakaway league ‘would damage game hugely’, Tom Watson claims

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Tom Watson is one of golf’s greatest players  (Getty Images)
Tom Watson is one of golf’s greatest players (Getty Images)

A breakaway golf league funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment fund would “damage the game hugely”, according to eight-time major champion Tom Watson.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series, spearheaded by Greg Norman, will host its first event at the Centurion Club next month, with top players such as Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia set to defy the PGA Tour and DP World Tour and compete for the £20 million total prize fund.

The PGA Tour has informed players that it will not grant releases to play in any of the eight events making up the series, with Norman promising to defend any player who faces sanctions for participating in the breakaway league.

Norman’s plans have put the LIV series and golf’s traditional tours on a collision course and Watson, one of the game’s greatest figures, believes it will not bring any benefits to the sport as a whole.

Comparing the LIV series to another proposed breakaway league, mooted in the 1970s by IMG founder Mark McCormack, Watson told the Metro: “I turned to Mark and said, ‘This would destroy the tour’. It was based on money. It wouldn’t be healthy for golf.

“It’s the same thing today. It would damage the game hugely. I don’t think it will happen because the top players want to play in the best tournaments.”

Stars such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have been critical of the LIV league but Norman has insisted his series does not need them for it to be a success.

“We are going to back up the players,” Norman said. “We are going to be there for them, for whatever that is. We’re ready to go. We don’t want to go, but we’re ready to go.

“It will be the player’s choice. I’m not going to begrudge any player who makes a decision to play wherever he wants. We’re giving them the ability because we believe LIV is here for a long period of time.”