On the eve of the first women’s major championship of the year in Texas, Greg Norman hinted at a growing interest in a women’s LIV Golf League while speaking ahead of the upstart circuit’s next event in Australia.
The CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf was asked about the future of LIV both from a men’s and women’s perspective and admitted there have been internal discussions “on a regular basis” about the latter.
“I have personally had discussions with individual LPGA Tour players, LET Tour players, Ladies European Tour. They love what our product is showcasing,” claimed Norman during a press conference at Grange Golf Club ahead of LIV Golf Adelaide. “They ask all the time, ‘How can we get involved? We’d love to see a LIV ladies series.’”
It’s important to note that while LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan has previously said she would meet with LIV Golf officials, there has been no public indication that meeting has taken place.
“We can only drink out of a fire hydrant so much, so we have a lot of opportunities and initiatives coming across our plate,” Norman explained. “Our focus is to make sure this year we produce what we’re producing (with the LIV Golf League) from day one, 2023, and then going forward we’re looking what are the best opportunities to build on to what we have today.”
Believe him or not, Norman has been adamant that his goal for LIV was to coexist within the golf ecosystem. For the sake of their tour, LPGA players past and present can only hope Norman is good on his word.
“I think if Norman does do this, it’s going to totally ruin the LPGA, because I think most of the girls would go, just because the money is a game-changer,” said 31-time LPGA winner Juli Inkster last August.
“If it’s the money that they have on the LIV, you know they’re going to crush the LPGA,” said 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam. “Hopefully they have the intention of growing the game and working together with the LPGA.”
Seven-time major winner Karrie Webb said she’d hold a grudge against players who doesn’t agree with her fellow Aussie Norman.
“If the LPGA were to suffer because a group of players went and started playing on a tour similar to (LIV) and the LPGA would suffer, I would hold that against them,” Webb said. “I know that (Greg Norman has) had this vendetta against the PGA Tour as long as I’ve known him, So I don’t think there would be any changing him. I would just ask him that in his ambition to succeed, that he doesn’t ruin women’s golf in the process.”
“I hope we survive it,” added former world No. 1 Stacy Lewis. “Should we talk to them? Absolutely. Ultimately, I think we have to find a way to co-exist.”
LIV Golf has long been criticized as a way for Saudi Arabia to sportswash its controversial human rights record. The Kingdom has been accused of politically motivated killings, torture, forced disappearances and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Members of the royal family and Saudi government were accused of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.
How can a women’s organization reconcile doing business with a regime that has such a horrendous record of human rights abuses, especially toward women?
“I think that’s maybe one of the reasons we should partner,” said Sorenstam, “to be able to make a difference.”
Contributing: Golfweek senior writer Beth Ann Nichols.