Minutes after the start of the Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament, the PGA Championships, affiliated with the World Golf Professionals Association, issued a decision on Thursday to ban 17 players from participating in its tournament after they entered the all-new joined competition.
The new LIV golf tournament funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund kicked off in North London on Thursday, with fans arriving at the Centurion Club in St Albans to see some of the sport’s biggest names play in the inaugural event .
And the Saudis have signed the biggest names in golf to participate in their new championship after “luring them with money,” according to the New York Times newspaper, which said the Saudi-funded league is coming to compete with the BGA Championships, a tournament that has been the most important event for decades. And the highest level in the world golf championships and its first standard.
CNN says that the BGA Tour is still the most prominent golf competition in the world today. However, the new big money rounds provide a great opportunity to earn money for players all over the world, especially the emerging talents.
The threats to exclude the participating players from the professional BGA tournaments, especially for the American champions, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, did not bear fruit.
Johnson, the former world number one and holder of two major championships, and left-handed genius Mickelson, who is the second greatest player in the last twenty years after Tiger Woods, responded to Saudi offers and overcame a hurdle that many believed be crossed.
“All this talk about money”
The BGA Championships announced that the players taking part in the Saudi-backed LIV Championship – and any other player who joins them – are “no longer eligible to participate” in the rounds that began 93 years ago .
“These players made their choice for financial reasons of their own,” PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. He warned other players tempted by Saudi offers that they would be subjected to the same penalties, lamenting that “all this talk about money, money and more money.”
In addition to the Saudi funding for the entire competition, Jeddah will also host one of the LIV League rounds during the month of October alongside a group of other cities around the world. BGA) after millions of dollars in prize money were awarded for the tournament.
The new Saudi-funded league brought together 48 dissident players, inevitably tempted by exorbitant financial prizes of more than 250 million dollars, spread over 8 rounds around the world, and in a unique format over three days without interruption. Among the 48 dissenting players, 16 stars are among the top 100 players in the world.
For the first round, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Saturday in north London, $25 million will be handed out, as is the case for the next seven rounds, a figure that more than doubles for each of the four Grand Slams.
In turn, American star Phil Mickelson received $200 million to join the new project, according to the newspaper, “The Daily Beast.” The player defended his decision to join the new competition in a press conference held in England on Wednesday.
“I understand that people have very strong opinions and may not agree with my decision, and I can sympathize with that,” Mickelson said. “But at this point in time, it gives me the opportunity to achieve the most balance in my life moving forward, and I think it will do a lot of good for the game.” .
He added that he “never condones human rights abuses” and declined to disclose exactly how much he is being charged for turning down the league in which he has played for so long. He continued: “I feel that contract agreements should be private. It doesn’t appear to be the case, but it should be.”
Moreover, says the New York Times, Saudi Arabia is targeting the structures and organizations that have governed professional golf for nearly a century, which is different from buying a European soccer team or hosting a global sporting event with the goal of ‘sports wash’. “
The American newspaper added that Saudi Arabia’s sudden entry into the game of golf comes as part of a multi-level approach to change its stereotype as a rich and conservative kingdom, both externally and internally.
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These efforts have accelerated rapidly since 2015 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his ascent to become the de facto ruler and led a sweeping reform process aimed at opening up the kingdom’s economy and culture.
He began putting Saudi Arabia in the news in ways unrelated to its poor human rights record, its military intervention in Yemen, or the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.
It is in line with the way the Saudis have used sport in the last five years, to try to project an image of the new kingdom and to shift the narrative away from Khashoggi and Yemen and talk more about Saudi Arabia,” Kristian said. said Coates Ulrichsen. who studies Gulf politics at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. positive.”
Human rights organizations have long accused Saudi Arabia of using sports as a means of reputational washing to distract attention from its human rights record.
But the oil-rich Gulf kingdom says hosting major sporting events is part of its drive to attract more tourists, business and investment as it embarks on reforms aimed at reducing its reliance on black gold revenue.
The new league is led by former Australian golf champion and businessman Greg Norman, who said last month that the competition was not organized for “sports washing” to cover up human rights abuses that Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused of committing.
In statements to the London newspaper “The Times”, last month, and a similar interview with “Sky Sports News”, he said: “What happened to Khashoggi is reprehensible. I will not go into politics, I know not what the Saudi government is doing. I don’t want to get into that.” .
“Everyone makes mistakes,” he added.
Controversy and division continued in the game of golf after the world’s most prominent stars headed to the new league. The New York Times reported that the prospects for the success of the Saudi-funded league are not yet clear.
Despite attracting prominent golfers, LIV tournaments were unable to obtain a media deal in the United States for television broadcast.
It also failed to attract major sponsors or broadcast partners such as ESPN, CBS, NBC and Amazon, which provide millions of dollars to the BGA.
But its instant appeal to players and seemingly limitless financial resources, according to the New York Times, could eventually have repercussions for the BGA Tour, as well as for the companies and broadcasters that have worked to build professional golf.