Saudi-backed golf series announced with 2022 aim, Trump courses mentioned as possible venues

On Wednesday, multiple sources confirmed to Golfweek that a private meeting with golf media members took place to outline plans for a new Saudi Arabia-backed golf series with Greg Norman as the expected commissioner.

The five people spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the series were not to be officially announced until next week. However, on Friday morning news officially dropped that organizers are moving forward with plans.

ESPN’s Bob Harig and others reported on Friday that Norman, 66, announced his association with Liv Golf Enterprises, backed by the Private Investment Fund, which operates on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia. Norman will be chief operating officer of the enterprise, as well as commissioner of the new league.

The new series hopes to debut in the spring of 2022.

Money will not be an issue for the new circuit, as massive incentives have been discussed between organizers and top players.

For example, according to reporting from The Guardian, one player from the U.S. Ryder Cup team told members of his inner circle he was offered $150 million for a three-year commitment to multiple Saudi-backed events.

The plan would include a mix of international and domestic events, and according to a tweet from No Laying Up, a number of former President Donald Trump’s courses could be among those on the future schedule.

Trump has been sympathetic to the Saudi regime in the past, even delivering a full-throated defense of the country in 2018, casting doubt on a U.S. intelligence assessment that the kingdom’s crown prince knew about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Even some players who have previously taken part in Saudi events have wondered aloud if this new plan is good for the game. For example, Graeme McDowell told Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on Thursday that while competition is good, the current PGA Tour product is healthy.

“It’s such an unknown quantity right now. It’s so hard to make a comment. Is it good for golf or bad for golf? It’s very difficult,” McDowell said. “Competition is typically good for everyone. I feel that typically the PGA Tour product has never been as strong as it is right now and it continues to get stronger. I certainly don’t have any contracts [from the new circuit] right now. I’m certainly very happy where I am right now on the PGA Tour.”

McDowell was among eight PGA Tour players — including world No. 2 Dustin Johnson — who asked for permission to compete at the Saudi International tournament. The Tour previously said that it would deny waivers for its members to take part in the controversial event.

Tour players need to obtain a release to compete on other circuits. The Saudi International is scheduled for February 3-6 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, meaning players might not learn if they will be permitted to play until Tuesday, January 4.

“I asked the PGA Tour for a release to go back there again next year because I’ve played the Middle East for a large part of my career,” McDowell said. “[The Tour] said to do so [ask for a release] even though they haven’t decided if we’re going to be able to go and play that event.”

Norman, 66, told media members this is “the biggest decision” of his life, although he’ll also continue to assist with his golf course design company.

“What do I do with the Greg Norman Company? It has 12 divisions. I can’t do both. I can’t put both feet in both office buildings and give 100 percent effort,” he told ESPN. “So I decided to step away from Greg Norman Company. I’m handing the reins over for the first time in my life to other individuals to run my company.

“That was a big, big decision because that’s how much I believe in this. That’s how much I believe in the people who have been behind this to get it to a point where we are now taking it and to a point where we will be live and have the first ball in the air in the [spring] of next year.”

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