Greg Norman insists Saudi-backed Asian Tour not seeking ‘fight’ with rival tours

Greg Norman

Greg Norman insists the Asian Tour is not seeking a fight with rival tours, despite announcing plans to stage a tournament in England for the first time as “just the beginning”.

As part of a 10-event International Series, the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire will host a GBP 1.5million event from June 9-12, the week before the US Open and clashing with the DP World Tour’s Scandinavian Mixed event.

Tournaments previously staged at Centurion Club include the Aramco Team Series event on the Ladies European Tour and two editions of Golf Sixes on the European Tour, now rebranded as the DP World Tour.

Centurion Club
The Centurion Club will host an event on the Asian Tour in June (Steven Paston/PA)

A spokesman for the DP World Tour declined to comment on the latest development in golf’s global power struggle when contacted by the PA news agency.

Norman is the chief executive of LIV Golf Investments (LGI), a company backed by the Private Investment Fund which operates on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia and which is investing 300 million US dollars into the Asian Tour.

“We are setting the Asian Tour up as a powerful new force on the world golf stage,” the former world number one said.

“Just because The International Series is associated with the Asian Tour, we want to get the message out there that it’s specifically for the Asian region. That is critically important for everyone to understand.

Greg Norman
Greg Norman insists the Asian Tour is not seeking a “fight” with rival tours (Nick Potts/PA)

“Healthy competition and respectful competition should spread golf globally. That’s why it’s so encouraging we can go to London, it’ll be so encouraging when we go to the United States.

“This is just the beginning, just the infancy of this journey.”

Norman made the announcement at a press conference in Jeddah ahead of the Saudi International, a tournament which was previously on the European Tour but is now the flagship event on the Asian Tour.

Massive appearance fees have helped attract a world-class field to Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, with the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood in the field.

PGA Tour members were only granted releases to play in the event on condition of future support of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California which is also taking place this week, an historic tournament won five times by Mickelson and twice by Johnson.

“We’re not in this for a fight, there’s no question,” Norman said. “We’re in this for the good of the game.

“It’s personally disappointing to see some of the attacks that have been taking place unwarrantedly. If you prejudge anybody without knowing the facts then shame on you.

“Are you scared of something? What is LIV Golf Investments doing that you’re scared of? Understand the fact that we have always and continue to be collaborative and cooperative with any of the institutions across the board.

“We want to work together side by side. It’s all about the game and I cannot enforce this enough. It’s for the betterment of the game, not administrations or anything else.

“I would encourage them to sit back and say maybe it’s a good time to sit down and understand if we can work side by side.”

As well as its investment in the Asian Tour, LGI also has ambitions to launch a Saudi-backed Super Golf League (SGL), with 48-year-old Lee Westwood admitting before last year’s US PGA Championship that it would be a “no-brainer” for him to sign a multi-million pound contract at this stage of his career.

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood believes it would be a “no-brainer” for him join a Super Golf League (Anthony Behar/PA)

In contrast, Rory McIlroy reiterated his opposition and labelled the proposals a “money grab” similar to football’s aborted European Super League, while players have been threatened with bans from established tours and potentially the Ryder Cup if they were to defect.

Asked about the SGL, Norman said: “LIV Golf Investments is investing into the International Series. That’s what we focus on now.

“Will there be things announced in the future? Absolutely. This is not a one-off journey. You want to sit back and see the evolution of how this is building out. It’s going to be an incredible one.”

The International Series will kick off in Thailand from March 3-6 and also visit England, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, China, Singapore and Hong Kong .