Saudi golf group set to unveil new series with Greg Norman as commissioner
Greg Norman is expected to be announced as the frontman for the new circuit.
Multiple people have confirmed to Golfweek that a private meeting with golf media members took place on Wednesday, outlining plans for a new Saudi-backed golf series. The five people spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the series won’t be officially announced until next week.
Greg Norman is expected to be announced as the commissioner for the new circuit, sources have also confirmed.
It’s unclear whether the new series will be unveiled as a full league—the Saudis have previously pitched the Premier Golf League (PGL) and Super Golf League (SGL) to no avail—or as a trial balloon with a handful of tournaments. Nor is it clear what the PGA Tour will do in response.
Media members who attended the session in New York City were asked to hold the news until early next week, sources have confirmed. Golfweek, which has written critically about the potential tour in the past, was not invited to attend the event.
With the Saudis behind the push, the new circuit will have the cash to lure top names. Back in May, a group made multi-million dollar offers to several of the game’s best players, including then-world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose, with some reaching in the neighborhood of $50 million.
That proposed league was expected to feature 40-48 players playing an 18-event schedule in tournaments around the world with lucrative purses, with a season-ending team championship. The league would have included guaranteed money as well as a team concept that would dole out ownership stakes for 10-12 players who would captain four-man teams.
The rival league push came to a head in the late spring with the Saudis looking to partner with the European Tour. Soon after, the PGA Tour announced a new pot of $40 million called the Player Impact Program to “recognize and reward players who positively move the needle.” At the end of the year, these funds will be distributed among 10 players, with the player deemed most valuable receiving $8 million.
The PGA Tour also announced a new strategic partnership with the European Tour.
The unencumbered Asian Tour, however, is still a viable option for with whom the Saudis could partner. In fact, the 2022 Saudi International in February will be conducted under the auspices of that tour, in which the Saudis made a $100 million investment. Golfweek last week reported that eight PGA Tour players have asked for permission to participate in that event. Tour players need to obtain a release to compete on other circuits.
Norman is an interesting, but natural choice to front the new series. In 1994, he proposed the World Golf Tour, a series of eight no-cut events intended to bring 40 players together. The plan was shot down by the Tour, yet then-commissioner Tim Finchem announced the World Golf Championships in 1997, adhering to many of the same principles. Golfweek reached out to Norman’s public relations person, Jane MacNeille, but didn’t get a response.
Norman was among those flown in to take part in the inaugural Golf Saudi Summit in 2020. Others who also took part in that event included Asian Tour CEO Cho Minn Thant and Ladies European Tour CEO Alexandra Armas.
Saudi Golf has been forcing its way into the international golf scene in recent years, including ownership of the Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Team Series, which made its third of four stops at the Glen Oaks Club on Oct. 14-16. Nelly Korda, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas were among the American players in the field. The final stop of that series will be in November in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, the same venue hosting the Saudi International.