It was not long ago that Greg Norman’s run LIV Golf Series was being brushed away like an annoying fly.
Now that fly is not so much a lone ranger but a swarm as the rise and rise of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series continues with revelations the rebel tournament is on the cusp of being awarded with official world rankings points.
Norman, the 67-year-old Australian entrepreneur who spent a then record 331 weeks as world No.1, is now being recognised as a “diabolical genius” for partnering up with the obscure MENA Tour.
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The “strategic alliance” puts LIV Golf on the highway to achieving its goal of achieving world rankings points for its stars, thereby allowing them an avenue to continue playing in majors.
As James Corrigan, the journalist who broke the story, wrote in The Telegraph“This void has been seen as LIV’s biggest weakness, because with its members banned from the PGA Tour they are inevitably sliding down the rankings, meaning they will not qualify for the majors unless they have other exemptions.”
The Telegraph’s chief sports writer Oliver Brown, who has followed the circus surrounding the rebel tournament all year, said the Mena move “might well be the most audacious yet.”
“It is not simply the fact that Norman has joined forces with a tour whose last order of merit leader earned £20,000 – roughly what a LIV event winner would earn for a single shot – but that the exercise has been branded a “strategic alliance”, the very term that the PGA and DP World Tours used to describe the partnership they hoped would head the Saudis off at the pass,” Brown wrote in The Telegraph.
“How naive that hope now looks. For the more Norman is thwarted in his grand ambitions, the more intransigent he becomes. Yes, he can be a wearisome braggart, but also a fiercely single-minded businessman who loves nothing more than a bitter scrap. He has often been fond of citing Jack Welch, the late US business magnate known as “Neutron Jack” for his ruthless leadership style, as an inspiration.”
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Brown said the time for brushing away the LIV Golf as a gimmick and side show was over and that Norman had outsmarted the establishment.
“Once, it might have been fashionable to laugh at Norman, to dismiss him as a troll and a Saudi puppet aggrieved at the PGA Tour’s sabotage of his plans in the Nineties to create a global golf circuit. But frankly, that time has come and gone,” Brown wrote.
Brown continued by saying that the establishment, led by USPGA commissioner Jay Monahan and his DP World Tour counterpart Keith Pelley, had been outfoxed.
“If you tell Norman something it cannot be done, he diverts to a long-forgotten backwater to prove that it can,” Brown wrote.
“It should serve as a salutary warning to the main tours.
“Not only have they been royally outspent by the LIV interlopers, they are in serious danger of being outsmarted, too.”
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Brown’s comments come after Rory McIlroy – the biggest name currently playing on the PGA Tour – once again urged the competing tours to come together and break bread, while insisting that the LIV Series should be awarded OGWR points.
“I certainly would want the best players in the world ranked accordingly,” McIlroy said. “I think if Dustin Johnson is somewhere around 100th in the world then it’s not an accurate reflection of where he is in the game.
“But at the same time, you can’t make up your own rules. If they want to pivot to meet the criteria, they can… I certainly have no problem with them getting world ranking points, at all. But if you don’t meet the criteria, it’s going to be hard to justify why you should have them.”
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Monahan, however, rejected the prospect of coming together in an interview with ESPN.
“Well, I think words and actions are important,” Monahan said.
“I think it’s impractical when you look at the fact that certain players have sued the PGA Tour, their employer has sued the PGA Tour. It’s not in the cards. It hasn’t been in the cards, and it’s not in the cards. I think we’ve been pretty consistent on that front.”
Nor does he believe the tours can co-exist, adding: “The answer to that is they’ve gone down their path and I think we have been pretty consistent that we’re going down ours, and I don’t see that happening. Haven’t, and I don’t.”