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The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has broken his silence on LIV Golf to insist that its proposed merger with the PGA Tour will be a “game-changer” for golf.

Speaking to FOX News reporter Bret Baier, Mohammed bin Salman shared his thoughts on the Greg Norman-fronted circuit, whilst also addressing questions about “sportswashing” and his own golf game.

Asked about the prospect of an agreement being reached between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, bin Salman replied: “That’s a game-changer for the golf industry. You will not have competition and you will have focus on developing the game. That’s good for the players and the fans who love golf.”

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Whilst his father Salman bin Abdulaziz is the king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman is, to all intents and purposes, its ruler. In addition to being its crown prince, he is also the deputy prime minister and minister of defence.

It was he who brought forward Vision 2030, a roadmap that is intended to reduce the country’s dependence on oil through new economic opportunities and a modernisation of its public image.

Sport is playing a key role in that blueprint, with several high-profile events and exhibitions having been staged in Saudi Arabia in recent years. In 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund purchased a controlling stake in Newcastle United Football Club with rumours swirling that the country has the 2034 FIFA World Cup also in its sights.

All of which is to say nothing of LIV Golf, the PIF-bankrolled golf league, which has disrupted men’s professional golf since its emergence early in 2022.

This has prompted many to accuse Saudi Arabia of “sportswashing”, a term used to describe the practice of individuals, groups or governments using sport to embellish, enhance or distract from their wrongdoings or ‘true’ reputations.

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In the case of Saudi Arabia specifically, it has been claimed that the country is using sport to divert attention from its record on human rights.

Bin Salman told Baier he has no issue with that term.

“If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then I will continue doing sportswashing. I don’t care [about that term]. I have 1% GDP growth from sport and I’m aiming for another 1.5%. Call it whatever you want. You’re going to get that 1.5%.”

On the subject of his own golf game, he described himself as “a beginner, not good”. Asked if having little time to practice was responsible for that, he added: “TThat’s part of it but I try to do my best.”

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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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