Tiger Woods was offered a package worth between $700million and $800m to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to the competition's chief executive Greg Norman.

Woods, a 15-time major winner, has been an advocate for the PGA Tour, which has been embroiled in a tussle with the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway league.

LIV Golf held its latest event last weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, with Henrik Stenson – who was removed as Ryder Cup captain after deciding to join the new tour – claiming victory in his first outing.

Norman previously said that Woods had been offered a "high nine digits" sum to join LIV Golf, which has so far been unable to attract many of the world's best, though has snagged big names such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson.

In an interview with Fox News with Tucker Carlson that was broadcast on Monday in the United States, Norman confirmed that Woods had been offered in the region of $700m to $800m.

"That number was out there before I became CEO. So that number has been out there, yes," Norman said.

"And, look, Tiger is a needle-mover and of course you have to look at the best of the best.

"So they had originally approached Tiger before I became CEO. So, yes, that number was somewhere in that neighbourhood."

 

Two-time major winner Norman has become a controversial figure within the sport, and was barred from attending the Celebration of Champions or the Champions' Dinner prior to The 150th Open Championship at St Andrews last month.

Woods failed to make the cut at that tournament, but backed the decision to disinvite Norman from the celebrations, saying: "Greg has done some things that I don't think are in the best interest of our game, and we're coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport. I believe it's the right thing."

Yet the Australian is unperturbed by any possible damage to his reputation.

"I really don't care," said Norman, who claimed he is unaware why LIV Golf has caused such uproar.

"I just love the game so much and I want to grow the game of golf and we at LIV see that opportunity not just for the men but for the women."

Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson has become the latest player to sign with the LIV Golf Invitational Series. 

Watson has been out of action since the US PGA Championship due to a knee injury and will be a non-playing captain in the Saudi-backed circuit's next tournament in Boston. 

The 43-year-old has managed just one top-three finish over the past four seasons, which came at the Waste Management Open in 2020. 

LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said: "Bubba Watson is a tremendous addition to LIV Golf – another major champion joining the growing list of stars on our teams. 

"His game combines the power, innovation and excitement that the LIV Golf brand represents. 

"He's a risk-taker who has cemented his name among the world's very best and we're eager for him to come aboard to bring new energy and audiences to this league." 

Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson have also recently signed with LIV Golf, with the latter being stripped of the captaincy of Europe's Ryder Cup team as a result. 

The series this week announced it will expand in 2023, taking the number of tournaments to 25 with a Team World Championship match play finale at the end of the season. 

A LIV Golf League with a 14-tournament schedule will be launched next year.

A controversial Saudi-backed 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series started last month, with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson quitting the PGA Tour to join the breakaway tour.

Henrik Stenson is set to make his LIV Golf debut this week after he also defected, prompting the Swede to be stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy, while Brooks Koepka is among the other high-profile players to sign up.

LIV Golf on Wednesday announced an expansion for 2023, which will see an increase in tournaments for 48 players who will compete for 12 team franchises, with $405million in prize money up for grabs.

Events are set to take place in new locations in both the Americas and Europe, while players will also be expected to showcase their talents in Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, Indonesia, China, Singapore and Hong Kong.

There will be a total of 25 LIV Golf tournaments next year and a Team World Championship match play grand finale at the end of the season.

LIV Golf stressed that the new 2023 league schedule will not compete with any of the four majors.

Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, said: "LIV Golf's expanding global platform will add a new dimension to the golf ecosystem as we know it, one that provides an opportunity for players and fans around the world to help maximise our beloved sport's true potential.

"Our franchise model will bring new energy and excitement to fans from all corners of the world, establishing a league of teams to connect and grow with. The International Series will attract new talent and offer unprecedented pathways that develop the next generation of stars.

"LIV Golf is committed to making sustainable investments that grow the game now and for the future, and we are proud to turn these dreams into a reality."

England’s Paul Casey, ranked 26th in the world, has become the latest player to join the Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf Invitational.

Casey has won 21 times as a professional, including three times on the PGA Tour and another 15 on the European Tour. He also represented Team Europe five times in the Ryder Cup.

A back injury has kept Casey sidelined since he took part in the WGC Match Play Championship in March. He played two holes of his opening match when he conceded due to back spasms, before withdrawing from the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

He plans to make his LIV debut later this month at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Casey joins a growing list of players to accept PGA Tour bans and join the breakaway series, fronted by CEO Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson are some of the marquee names that have come on board with the promise of big signing bonuses, hefty prize purses and an eased schedule.

Greg Norman has accused the PGA Tour of "deafening hypocrisy" following the backlash to the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Norman is the figurehead of the controversial, Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway competition, which started earlier in June with a tournament in London.

Critics have accused LIV Golf as being another method of sports washing from the Saudi regime.

Players that competed in the inaugural LIV Golf event have been suspended from the PGA Tour.

However, Norman has hit back and claimed the PGA Tour are showing hypocrisy, with the Australian citing sponsorship money that is raked in from Saudi Arabia.

"Look, if they want to look at it in prism, then why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors within the PGA Tour doing 40 plus billion dollars worth of business with Saudi Arabia?" he told Fox News.

"Why is it OK for the sponsors? Why is it OK that there's a Saudi sponsor, Aramco, the largest sponsor of women's golf in the world? Why is it OK for them? Why is it not OK for these players?

"Will [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan go to each and every one of those CEOs of the 23 companies that are investing into Saudi Arabia and suspend them and ban them? The hypocrisy in all this, it's so loud. It's deafening."

Norman added: "The European Tour since 2009, had a golf tournament, the Saudi International that's in existence since 2019.

"And during that Saudi International, there were PGA Tour players who were given rights and waivers to go play there. 

"So to me, if golf is good for the world, golf is good for Saudi, and you're seeing that growth internally, it's extremely impressive."

Rory McIlroy says the ongoing LIV Golf series saga will serve to "fracture" the sport and the four-time major winner feels many PGA Tour players viewed those joining the Saudi-backed circuit as "selfish". 

The LIV Golf series - headed up by chief executive Greg Norman - has faced immense criticism since it launched, with opponents labelling the new tour as an exercise in "sportswashing". 

That has not stopped several of the game's biggest stars signing up, however, with Bryson DeChambeau calling his own choice to feature on the circuit a "business decision" after joining the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood in competing. 

The first LIV Golf event took place last weekend in London, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

McIlroy has been one of the most open critics of the new series, appearing to taunt Norman after surpassing his tally of 20 PGA Tour victories with his 21st triumph on Sunday, the successful defence of his Canadian Open title.

Before conducting a press conference ahead of the U.S. Open – which begins on Thursday – McIlroy insisted the new venture was only going to widen divides within the sport. 

"If it keeps going the way it's going, it's going to fracture the game – sorry, it's going to fracture the game more than it already is," he told Sky Sports.

"The professional world in golf has already been fractured, there's so many different tours, so many different things to follow.

"I've always been an advocate of trying to make it more cohesive and trying to get people to work together more. This is ripping that apart. 

"If people want to spend money in the game - and it's not regardless of where that money comes from - I think, if the Saudis are hell-bent on spending money in golf, let's get it spent in a way that benefits the wider ecosystem.

"That's where I would like to see it going, but whether that happens or not remains to be seen."

While McIlroy was reluctant to label any player's decision to feature on the new circuit as a "betrayal", he said many of his peers on the PGA Tour did not look upon such choices kindly.

"Betrayal's a very strong word," he said. "It's disappointing, I think the players that have decided to stay on the PGA Tour maybe feel slighted in some way, or feel those guys have been selfish, because it's for personal gain.

"I think in any industry or business, we have to lift each other up and try to make it as best we can for everyone. 

"I think if those guys [the LIV Golf players] thought outside of themselves, they'd see this wasn't best for everyone, that's my point of view on it.

"Everyone has their own goals and their own ambitions and thoughts, and they have to do what they feel is right for themselves."

Having reluctantly emerged as one of the most heralded opponents of the new circuit, McIlroy feels defending the PGA Tour is the right thing to do, considering his strong views.

"It's certainly a burden I don't need," he added. "But I have pretty strong views on the subject, and I don't think it would be right for me to have these strong opinions and not share them.

"I think I'm providing the commentary for a different thought process that is shared by a lot of people, that's the thing.

"I'm put in front of a camera more than most and everyone's here for me all the time about this subject."

Rory McIlroy saved his best for last to defend his Canadian Open title on Sunday and could not resist a sly dig at LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman afterwards.

At the end of a chaotic week for the sport, with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series commencing in competition with the PGA Tour, McIlroy posted his best round of the tournament at St. George's with an eight-under 62.

Playing in the final group with Tony Finau and Justin Thomas, the 33-year-old finished on 19-under for the tournament in front of a packed gallery and secured his 21st PGA Tour win, moving him ahead of Norman's 20.

Though evidently happy he secured the win heading into the U.S. Open, as one of the more vocal critics of LIV Golf, the world number eight made sure everyone knew he was aware he had overtaken Norman.

"Twenty-first PGA Tour win. One more than someone else," he told CBS. "That gave me a little bit of extra incentive today. Happy to get it done.

"It's incredible. Playing with Tony [Finau] and JT [Thomas], two of the top players in the world, and all of us playing the way we did, the worst score in the group was six-under par.

"This is a day I'll remember for a long, long time. I've sort of rededicated myself to the game a little bit, sort of realised what made me happy and this makes me happy."

McIlroy led the entire way on Sunday, starting the final round in a share of the lead with Finau.

He started fast, too, making five birdies on the front nine before commencing the back nine with another three on the bounce.

Bogeys on the 13th and 16th holes opened the door for Thomas and Finau but it was promptly shut, with the Northern Irishman closing out the round with another pair of birdies.

Finau and Thomas finished outright second and third on 17- and 15-under respectively, while Justin Rose tied Sam Burns on 14-under after bogeying the 18th to just miss out on a spectacular sub-60 score.

LIV Golf Invitational chief executive Greg Norman says "the evolution of golf" has arrived following the conclusion of the breakaway circuit's first event.

Charl Schwartzel survived a shaky finish on the back nine to hold off South African countryman Hennie du Plessis by one shot at the Centurion Club near London.

He pocketed $4.75million for his triumph – golf's biggest ever prize pot – after his Stinger GC also finished top of the team leaderboard.

The 2011 Masters champion was one of seven major winners taking part in the first leg of the breakaway series, which has attracted controversy due to its Saudi links.

But with Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez the latest to defect from the PGA Tour over the past few days, LIV Golf is only gaining more and more momentum.

"All I can say is that the evolution of golf has arrived," Norman, who first tried to set up a world tour in the 1990s, said at Saturday's presentation ceremony.

"For 27 years there have been a lot of obstacles put in our path, a lot of dreams have tried to be squashed but they couldn't squash us.

"Golf was always going to be a force for good. The fans wanted this. We wanted this for you. We wanted this for the players, for the caddies, for the players' families."

Schwartzel led from start to finish to claim a prize equal to the amount it has taken him four years to earn on the PGA Tour.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we could play for that much money in golf," he said.

"As you could see I was taking a bit of heat down the stretch and there was a lot of money involved."

More big names are expected to be unveiled by LIV ahead of its second tournament in Portland at the end of June, before the series moves to New Jersey, Boston and Chicago.

Greg Norman addressed Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying: "We've all made mistakes."

Former golf world number one Norman is chief executive of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments. He insists that the business is independent and not answerable to Saudi Arabia, and has described the killing of Khashoggi as "reprehensible".

Norman was speaking after accusing the PGA Tour of being "anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive" for denying players permission to enter the opening LIV Golf Invitational series event next month.

The Australian, who twice won the Open Championship, is facing regular questioning about the Saudi funding of the new series, in light of widespread outrage over the death of Khashoggi and concerns raised over the country's human rights record.

Norman said of Khashoggi's 2018 death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul: "Everybody has owned up to it, right? It has been spoken about, from what I've read, going on what you guys reported. Take ownership, no matter what it is.

"Look, we've all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward."

US intelligence chiefs concluded in 2021 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the mission to capture or kill Khashoggi. Bin Salman has strenuously denied this, but has said that "as a leader I must take responsibility".

In an interview with Sky Sports News, Norman said: "It's reprehensible what's happened with Khashoggi" and that Saudi Arabia is "making a cultural change".

"They want to change that culture and they are changing that culture, and you know how they're doing it? Golf," he said.

When it was pointed out to Norman that this appeared to be a case of "sportswashing", the 67-year-old denied this was the case, saying: "I'm not talking about sportswashing. They're changing their culture within their country."

Asked about reports of 81 men being executed in one day in Saudi Arabia in March 2022, Norman said: "I'm not going to get into politics. I don't want to get into that. But every country's got a cross to bear."

Norman on Tuesday revealed that the LIV Golf series had secured an additional $2billion in funding ahead and stated that several top players had said they would play without a release. The PGA Tour and European Tour have been reluctant to allow top stars to play in the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club from June 9-11.

Asked about the Saudi money and reminded of the country's human rights record, Norman said: "They're not my bosses, we're independent. I don't answer to Saudi Arabia, I don't answer to MBS [Bin Salman]."

Greg Norman has slammed the "anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive" PGA Tour for denying players from entering the opening Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational series event next month.

Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are among the players who asked to be released to play in the inaugural event at Centurion Club from June 9-11.

The PGA Tour has denied members permission to play in London, as the Canadian Open will be staged at the same time.

"We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations," Tyler Dennis, executive vice president and president of the PGA Tour, wrote in a memo sent to members on Tuesday.

"As such, Tour members are not authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League's London event under our regulations.

"As a membership organisation, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the Tour and its players."

Norman, the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, on Tuesday revealed that the event had secured an additional $2billion in funding ahead and stated that several top players had said they would play without a release.

Norman said in a statement: "Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it's exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament.

"This is particularly disappointing in light of the Tour's non-profit status, where its mission is purportedly 'to promote the common interests of professional tournament golfers.'

"Instead, the Tour is intent on perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market.

"The Tour's action is anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive. But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally."

Lee Westwood confirmed he has requested to be released by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour in order to play in the inaugural event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational series.

Speculation around a breakaway association in golf started gathering a head of steam in 2019 but did not attain mainstream attention until last year, with former world number one Greg Norman appointed the CEO of LIV Golf in October.

LIV Golf is financed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and owns the Super Golf League (SGL) trademark.

While the idea of the SGL was referred to as "dead in the water" by Rory McIlroy in February after he, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and several other high-profile players committed themselves to the PGA Tour, preparations for LIV Golf's series continued to press ahead.

No longer considered a "league", the series will consist of seven regular-season events and then a season-ending championship. A maximum of 48 players will make up 12 teams of four, with drafts set to determine the make-up of those groupings.

Regular events will play without a cut and a $20million (£16m) purse, plus an additional $5m (£4m) split between the best three teams, while the finale tournament is set to have €30m (£24m) up for grabs, plus $50m (£40m) in team prizes.

Westwood revealed in February he signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding the competition and on Wednesday confirmed he has asked the PGA Tour and DP World Tour to allow him to compete – starting with next month's inaugural event at Centurion Club in London – despite previous threats to blacklist so-called rebels.

"I've asked for a release from the PGA Tour and European Tour for the Centurion like many others have," Westwood told reporters at The Belfry ahead of the British Masters.

"I've asked for releases for tournaments for as long as I've been on tour. It's not the first release I've asked for. I've asked for many. Not heard anything back yet. Ball is in the European Tour's court and the PGA Tour's court for that matter."

 

Quizzed on the controversy around the event, Westwood continued: "This is my job. I do this for money. It's not the only reason, but if anybody comes along and gives any of us a chance at a pay rise, then you have to seriously consider it.

"It's being portrayed as an 'us and them', whereas the people from LIV Golf, all the reports I've seen, have said that they want to stand side-by-side.

"They are not going up against any of the really massive tournaments. They want everybody to be able to play, have options. They are not forcing anybody's hand, so I believe."

One of the main criticisms of the LIV Golf series relates to its financial backing by the PIF of Saudi Arabia, a country routinely decried for its poor human rights record.

Saudi Arabia's increasing investment in major sporting events is, according to Amnesty International, an example of "sportswashing" – using sport to improve a tarnished reputation.

While other sports have also received significant flak for Saudi involvement, Westwood thinks golf is being unfairly targeted.

He told Sky Sports: "We've played European Tour in Saudi Arabia and I've had releases from the PGA Tour to say I can play in Saudi Arabia, so it has been no problem to them in previous years.

"Formula One raced there. Newcastle United are owned partly by people from Saudi Arabia. There has been boxing there and I think there has been snooker and darts there as well.

"Golf's not the first sport to have links with Saudi Arabia, but it seems to be coming under more scrutiny than anyone else. Whether you think that's right or not is the individual's opinion.

"I think Saudi Arabia obviously know they've got issues. I think lots of countries around the world have got issues and I think they're trying to improve. They're trying to do it through sport, which a lot of places, a lot of countries do.

"I think they're doing it a lot quicker than some countries have tried to do it and that maybe worries or scares people. People don't like change do they, they like continuity and things to stay the same."

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