LONDON – Just this spring, Greg Norman, who twice lifted the claret pitcher as a British Open winner, sought special clearance to play in this week’s tournament in St. Louis. Andrews in Scotland.
The answer was unequivocal: no.
Not only does Norman, whose role in the new series LIV Golf has made him an outcast in certain golf circles, have no place on the course, it turns out that Norman is not even invited to dinner.
R&A, which organizes the Open, became the latest corner of golf last weekend to say it sent Norman into exile, temporarily banishing him even from the traditional dinner gathering of former Open champions. The move has made this week’s tournament, the latest of four major golf tournaments this year, a new flashpoint as players and executives openly squabble over LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded rebel league that made the sport once ruled Norman, clearly factional.
In a polite but firm statement, R&A made it clear that he had chosen a side. He said he contacted Norman “to inform him that we have decided not to invite him to attend this event.”
“The 150th Open Championship is a hugely important milestone for golf and we want to keep the focus on celebrating the championship and its legacy,” R&A said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we do not believe that this would have been the case if Greg had been present. We hope that when circumstances permit, Greg will be able to attend again in the future.”
LIV Golf, whose main financial backer is the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Norman, chief executive of LIV, said: Australian Golf Digest that he is “disappointed” and considers the decision “petty”.
“I thought R&A would stay above all that given their position in world golf,” said Norman, whose only major tournament victories came at the Opens in 1986 at Turnberry and 1993 at Royal St. George.
Public controversy between the 67-year-old Norman and R&A began in April when he expressed confidence in the Australian media that he could get an exemption from the Open rules, which allow former champions to compete alone in this qualifier if they are 60 or under. and play in the 150th tournament due to start Thursday at the Old Course in St. Louis. Andrews, Scotland.
Word soon arrived that R&A was not offering Norman such an exemption. (The governing body is flexible: it agreed to host Marc Calcavecchia, the 62-year-old professional who won the Royal Troon in 1989, because the Open, which was to be his farewell in 2020, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and he was recovering from operations last summer.)
But the attention and scrutiny of Norman has only intensified in recent months as he lured major past champions like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed into the LIV series, severing their PGA Tour ties and turning golf into a cauldron of malice. His statements in May rejecting the Saudi assassination and dismemberment Washington Post journalist saying, “Look we’ve all been wrong”, prompted new criticism.
Norman is not the first major champion to miss past winners this year due to the Saudi Arabia furor. Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, was absent from the event when it was held at the Augusta National Golf Club in April after he denounced Saudi Arabia’s “terrible record” for human rights but said the LIV was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. in life. change the way the PGA Tour works.”
Mickelson is expected to play at St. Andrews this week.