EXCLUSIVE: Greg Norman – “I don’t care what Tiger and Rory say… I’m going nowhere”
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman believes Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have an “agenda” and has suggested they fear his leadership in a world-exclusive interview with Today’s Golfer.
The Australian issued a firm response to the 15-time and four-time Major champions’ calls for him to resign, telling us that he’s going nowhere.
“I pay zero attention to McIlroy and Woods, right?,” Norman, who we named the third most influential person in golf for 2022, told us. “They have their agenda for whatever reason. They’re saying whatever they want to say. It has no bearing or effect on me. I’m going to be with LIV for a long, long period of time.”
The 67-year-old says he’ll continue to ignore the naysayers but believes LIV’s success is what is causing the negativity among its competitors.
“When the monopolist’s territory is getting threatened, they’re going to rear their ugly head up and do what they do,” he smiles. “But from my whole perspective, I’ve always taken the high road this year. I will continue to take the high road because I believe in our business model. I believe in our people, I believe in the players’ independent rights, and we’ve already seen a dramatic shift in our audience.”
Woods and McIlroy have both called on the Norman to step down as LIV Golf boss if there is to be any hope of a resolution in the fallout between the Saudi-backed upstart league and the PGA Tour.
“Greg has to go,” Woods said during his hosting duties at The Hero Open. “As Rory said, I think Greg’s got to leave and then we can eventually, hopefully, have a stay between the two lawsuits and figure something out.”
McIlroy, who has been the loudest critic of LIV this year, continued his war of words with Norman at last month’s DP World Tour Championship by urging the former World No.1 to “exit stage left”.
“He’s made his mark but I think now is the right time to say you’ve got this thing off the ground but no one’s going to talk unless there’s an adult in the room that can actually try to mend fences,” the Northern Irishman said.
Reports last month suggested that Norman would be replaced by former TaylorMade boss Mark King, but those claims were branded “patently false” by LIV Managing Director Majed Al-Sorour, and the two-time Open champion remains fully confident that his role is secure.
“I’ve got the support of our investors,” Norman said confidently. “Our ambitions going forward I can tell you are pretty significant and elevated from where we are in 2022,” he said.
But Woods believes Norman’s continued presence will prove to be a major sticking point in ending the legal battles and stalement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.
“Not right now, not with their leadership, not with Greg there and his animosity towards the tour itself. I don’t see that happening,” Woods said when asked if he could see an end to the fallout.
“But why would you change anything if you’ve got a lawsuit against you? They (LIV) sued us first. I see that there’s an opportunity out there if both organisations put a stay on their litigation but that’s the problem, they’ve got to put a stay on it.
“I think it has to start with leadership on their side. Understanding that what is happening right now is not the best fit or future for the whole game of golf. Now, what is the best way for our game to grow? It’s not this way. You need to have the two bodies come together. If one side has so much animosity, someone trying to destroy our tour, then how do you work with that?”
As its stands, LIV events don’t receive world ranking points, their players are suspended from the PGA Tour, cannot play in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, and question marks remain over their eligibility for the Majors. But Norman remains fully confident he is the right man for the job and can help find a resolution.
“Of course it can happen under my leadership,” he said. “I mean, Tiger might be a messenger, right? Who knows. All I know is we are going to keep doing what we’re doing with LIV and we are just going to keep moving forward.”
It’s not the first time that Norman has been at the centre of a row with some of the game’s biggest names. He first faced criticism when he attempted to set up a breakaway golf league in the mid 1990s. He bristles at the reminder, but he remains in no mood to find out why so many pros are against his leadership.
“You have to ask them that question; I really don’t care. I knew when I came into this position that I needed to have thick skin” he said.
“I went through it in 1994, I’ve been through this scenario before. It wasn’t Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in those days; it was Arnold Palmer. For me, the experience and knowledge and understanding of the playbook just allows you to keep looking forward. As I said, I really don’t care what they say.”
But would Norman consider standing down if everyone agreed it was for the overall good of the game?
“I am not going anywhere. I don’t care what anybody says. I’m not going anywhere. I am so proud of the position I am in and maybe, maybe, it’s my leadership that has them scared. Maybe…”
LIV’s schedule will expand from eight to 14 events in 2023 with the same 48 players competing in every tournament. Norman believes that highlights just how successful the rebel series has been in such a short space of time.
“If I had to scale it (the debut year) from one to 10, I would give us a 9.5. The impact and the deliverables we’ve achieved in an eight-month time period this year are nothing short of phenomenal,” he told us.
“But it’s also a testament that the market in the golfing world was looking for something like us and LIV can work within the system. I was very, very proud of what we did.
“Here’s an interesting stat: 71% of all those who attended LIV events this year had never been to a golf event before. It is just an eye-opener. I think it’s like 55% were under 44. We’re reaching a younger audience. This was the goal we always wanted.
“We knew golf was stuck in a really old box with the demographics. This was our mission to reach down and expand the game of golf to a broader footprint to get to the younger generation.”
That expansion will see LIV visit more countries in 2023, including Norman’s homeland, with an event confirmed for The Grange in Adelaide in April.
“We did 37,000 ticket sales in 48 hours, that’s a testament to the power of LIV. That’s a testament to what the people and golf have been dying for. What they’ve been starving for.
“For me to come out of my home country, knowing that the announcement was received so emphatically, tells you again that what you’re doing is right.
“No matter where I go in the world, nobody – not one person – has said what I’m doing is stupid or wrong.”
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