Greg Norman praises Saudi golf ‘rebels’

Greg Norman

Greg Norman has hailed the rebels who have risked the wrath of the PGA and DP World Tours by committing to play in next year’s Saudi International.

Organisers of the event yesterday confirmed the names of the first 25 players who will play in the tournament in February.

They include Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Phil Mickelson, as well as several members of the 2021 European Ryder Cup team.

Struck from the DP World Tour schedule amidst the ongoing power-struggle currently gripping the men’s game, the Saudi International is scheduled to take place at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, near Jeddah, from February 3-6.

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That places it directly opposite a new European Tour event, the Ras al Khaimah Championship, scheduled to take place in the UAE the same week.

It is strongly suspected – albeit so far unconfirmed – that it will form part of a new-look Asian Tour schedule which has been bolstered by Greg Norman’s new LIV Golf Investments venture, itself part-funded by Saudi Arabian cash.

It has been reported that players who take part in the tournament could face sanctions from their ‘home’ tours.

However, in a memo sent to all of the players who have confirmed their participation in the Saudi International, which has been obtained by Australian Golf Digest, Norman lauded the ‘rebel’ players for standing up to what he called “anticompetitive threats”.

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“I want to share my undivided support and endorsement for the stance taken in announcing your participation in the Saudi International,” he wrote.

“You are standing up for your rights, as professional athletes, and for what is right and best for the global development of the sport of golf.

Whilst you may not be aware, this has been a long-standing issue for the world’s best players – seeking the ability to play as far and as wide as they choose to maximise their value, without threat of penalty or otherwise – and today is a positive and important step in changing the way in which professional bodies should reduce controls that limit the game’s ability to flourish at a truly global level.   

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“Without this change, you will never realise your individual and collective value, or elevate the game to the levels it deserves. Simply put, the anticompetitive threats and actions these professional bodies have taken are designed to prevent fair competition, limit the game’s growth, and harm your ability to realise your true value. 

“I wanted to reach out directly to share the respect I have for you and the strength of your actions, and also to voice the level of support you have from so many sectors of the industry, who are greatly encouraged by your leadership and the new horizons in golf’s future. “ 

Contacted by bunkered.co.uk yesterday, the European Tour declined to comment on what sanctions – if any – its member players might face for playing in the Saudi International. 

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