Greg Norman admitted his LIV Invitational Series was “hurt” by Phil Mickelson’s controversial comments earlier this year.
The Saudi-backed breakaway venture was “ready to launch” the week of the Genesis Invitational, according to Norman, before statements attributed to Mickelson reportedly caused other players to withdraw.
In an interview with ESPN, the chief executive of LIV Golf Investments revealed a host of the world’s top 50 players had “money in their pockets” - but backtracked under the threat of lifetime bans from the PGA Tour.
Others, he insisted, remain signed up to the project.
“Quite honestly, we were ready to launch on the Tuesday or Wednesday of Genesis,” Norman claimed.
“We had enough players in our strength of field, or minimal viable product, ready to come on board. And when all of that happened, everybody got the jitters, and the PGA Tour threatened people with lifetime bans and stuff like that.
“To this day, we still have players under contract and signed. The ones who wanted to get out because of the pressure of the PGA Tour gave back their money and got out. Guys had money in their pockets.”
In the immediate aftermath of that chapter of the Mickelson saga, which saw quotes emerge where he criticised the Saudi regime and admitted he was only in it for “leverage” over PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, a number of players confirmed their commitment to the established circuit.
Among them were Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, who had been considered likely to join the LIV Series.
But despite the setbacks, Norman insisted 15 of the top 100 players in the world have signed up for the curtain-raiser at Centurion Club in June, which will become the richeset event in golf history with its $25 million purse.
Among those to have signed up is Mickelson – and according to Norman, the door remains open despite the problems his behaviour has caused.
“He’s always going to have an open door,” he said.
“It’s going to be his decision, his decision only. He’s got a few things he has to work out himself, obviously, with the PGA Tour and where he wants to go with them and how he wants to go with them. I can’t read Phil’s mind because I haven’t spoken with him.
“From our perspective, I’m always going to be consistent in that I respect Phil. I respect what he’s done for the game of golf, and he’s always going to have an open door to any golf tournament he wants to go play as far as I’m concerned.”