Exclusive | Asia is sleeping giant to help game reach non-traditional destinations: LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman

The PGA Tour-LIV Golf face-off is far from getting over. The PGA Tour had recently accused LIV Golf of using antitrust laws “as a cudgel” and undermining its contracts with players in a counterclaim to a lawsuit the Saudi-backed circuit filed in September. LIV Golf has acquired the services of some of the PGA Tour’s top members — including six-time major winner Phil Mickelson with enormous purses — whereas others who followed suit and joined the rebel circuit have been suspended by the miffed PGA Tour.

Earlier, Mickelson and 10 other players had accused the PGA Tour of antitrust violations. In its counterclaim, the PGA Tour pointed out that the golfers were aware of not having any unilateral right to defect, and that breaching their contracts would lead to suspensions. “(This case) is a cynical effort to avoid competition and to freeride off of the Tour’s investment in the development of professional golf.”

“LIV has openly sought to damage the Tour’s business relationships with its members by inducing them to breach their contractual requirements. Even going so far as to pay members’ legal fees to make breaching their contracts with Tour more enticing,” the Tour said.

Hence, a lot has transpired ever since LIV Golf came into existence. The Saudi-backed circuit’s CEO and legendary figure Greg Norman spoke at length and slammed the ‘monopolists’ of the game, reacted to the world rankings being denied to LIV Golf players and more during an exclusive interaction with Wion’s Sports Editor Digvijay Singh Deo (on the sidelines of the sixth event of LIV Golf’s inaugural season in Bangkok, Thailand).

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On being asked about the court cases being filed on both sides and how dirty it has become between LIV Golf and PGA Tour, Norman said, “It is back to the monopolists. They can’t break us down because golf is a force for good . If someone wants to smear you then shame on you. Don’t be a hypocrite. The PGA tour has 27 sponsors that too have tons or billions of dollars of business in Saudi. Why can those sponsors be there and not with LIV? Golf Saudi is the largest sponsor of women’s golf. Why is it not good for 48 men but good for them or the US govt to do deals with Saudi? I feel very good about where I am and with the product. I am content with what I I’m doing it for the game of golf.”

The 67-year-old also opined on LIV Golf players being denied ranking points, as revealed by the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) organization on Thursday (October 06). “Not a setback. My players should have world-ranking points. “It doesn’t make sense from a major or broadcaster. You are paying for your strength in the field. By not allowing LIV players points, you are degrading the game of golf. It is not doing the game of golf any good,” he mentioned.

On fighting the battle against the LIV Golf critics, Norman says he has remained calm and is confident in his product. “It’s not frustrating. You can’t run through a brick wall without being bloody. this wall has been running for 53. No tour owns the game of golf. We want golf to be beneficial to what we can give. It will work out . LIV is not going anywhere. We will keep growing. There will be a change in momentum. This is a beta year, a test year. Our future is extremely loud and bright.”

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With LIV Golf targeting to take the game to all parts of the world and targeting the highly-potent Asian market for the sport’s expansion, Norman made a bold claim and said, “America is not the be-all-end-all of golf. Asia is the sleeping giant of golf. 60% of golf course construction is between middle east Asia and far east Asia. We are working on our business model on that side. We can better improve where we can get a better return on investment.”

“Franchise space has never been done in golf. Golf was the same 72 holes. The player did not make money earlier. That model is old. We have space like cricket like the IPL or NHL or NBA where the franchise model creates value. Golf is the only sport that does not have the opportunity to have pe money coming in. Bigger the franchise bigger the place. Self-fulfilling prophecy. The investor will deliver a multiple. The world has made a statement by supporting us. we are delivering. We will keep improving,” Norman, the winner of 81 professional tournaments, concluded.