Greg Norman, head of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV golf tour, faced some conservative criticism after meeting with a group of House Republicans behind closed doors on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Norman, who is on a Washington trip as part of a public-relations effort to sell lawmakers on the benefits of a new rival to the PGA Tour, was also questioned about his league’s Saudi funding at a Republican Study Committee meeting.
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – and has pledged $250 million in total prize money.
Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, suggested he didn’t mince words with Norman, who told the Republican that the goal of his visit was “competition” — a claim that Roy thought was “bullshit,” though he said he’d like to sit down with Norman and talk about it. I will be happy to talk more.
“Don’t sell us, ‘It’s just a matter of competition’ when they won’t answer nearly a billion dollars to buy PGA players that will result in a billion dollars in PR for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Roy told CNN, adding that they were in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. could
LIV Golf has spent eye-watering sums poaching top PGA Tour players, reportedly offering nine figures for individuals to sign with the new league and huge purses for winners of its tournaments. In early August, Norman confirmed to Fox News that golf legend Tiger Woods had turned down an offer worth around $700-$800 million to join LIV Golf.
The chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Rep. Jim Banks, told CNN that it was a “lively discussion” and that overall Norman was “well received by our members.”
The Indiana Republican noted that Norman asked to meet with his group, which regularly meets with outside guests.
“Some members have addressed Saudi-backed funding. That came up in the discussion, and Mr. Norman addressed those issues,” Banks said. “He explained how investment funds are set up and other investments they have made in the United States. He promised to sit with the members individually.
Banks stated that “there was no asking” for Norman Congress to act on behalf of the League and that the purpose of the meeting was more “public relations” than anything else.
Banks added: “If Tiger Woods wants to come and talk about his issues with the PGA and LIV Golf, we’d love for him to come too.”
LIV golfers were not allowed to play in this week’s Presidents Cup, a biennial competition pitting an international team and a U.S. team against each other, which begins Thursday.
For international captain Trevor Immelman, it proved a selection headache, with the likes of Open champion Cameron Smith, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen barred from playing.
“I would say massively catastrophic is probably an understatement,” Immelman told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell. “It’s definitely been an interesting process.”
The US team faces the same problem with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau unavailable after switching to the LIV Golf Series.
But opposing captain Davis Love III arguably has more depth at his disposal than Immelman, who lamented the absence of some “incredible players” from the team.
International teams have an unfavorable record in the President’s Cup having won just once in 13 editions of the competition.
“For the last year or so, as these fractures (between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour) started to happen, every single player on our squad knew what the rules were and knew what decisions they had to make. Opportunity to play in the President’s Cup,” he added.
Asked if he would miss the likes of Smith, Neumann and Oosthuizen, Immelman said: “They are incredible players. They are players who have played in the President’s Cup. They have the experience of being in that cauldron, understand what it takes. But, you know, like I said, they knew the decisions they needed to make to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
“All that information was part of their decision-making process. So communication was very open. Everyone knew where they stood and made the decisions they thought were best for them, and I respect their decisions.”
This year’s President’s Cup is being held at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina and will conclude on Sunday.