THE golfing ‘jungle’ drums have been beating around the world speculating Greg Norman has started up his own World Tour – again! Like all rumours, stories start off with an element of truth, and matters get amended for dramatic effect, as gossip is far more fun than plain facts. Even the headline to this piece is a somewhat over the top when the truth emerges.
Having spoken directly to Greg Norman yesterday and to Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer for the Asian Tour, I’m delighted to clear the air and end the golfing whispers. Greg has been appointed CEO of ‘LIV Golf Investments,’ who’s majority shareholder is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabi (PIF), which has been set up to develop professional golf worldwide.
229 Full Time Staff
First port of call for Greg and his new 229-strong staff is the struggling Asian Tour that has been devastated by the Covid pandemic. It’s a part of the world Greg has a close connection with, so it came as no surprise to see LIV Golf Investments jumping in to save the day. However, this primary step is far more than your stereotypical financial bailout.
“This is only the beginning,” commented Norman. “I am pleased that the investor base is 100% commercially driven by the opportunity to improve golf for all involved. I am happy to partner with this group of investors to bring the significant resources to bear that are necessary for the fundamental changes required for the greater good of the sport.”
Asian Tour 2020/21 to conclude with four events in Thailand and Singapore
The Asian Tour, which is due to restart later this month with two events in Thailand and a further two in Singapore at the start of the year, will be adding 10 new high-profile events annually to their 2022 schedule. Over the next 10 years LIV has committed more than $200 million to support playing opportunities and prize funds.
Asian Tour is a sleeping giant
“I have been a staunch supporter and believer in playing and developing golf in Asia for more than four decades,” added Norman. “The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential. We see our promotion of these new events as a vital first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform, rich with playing opportunities that create valuable player pathways.”
Saudi International now sanctioned by Asian Tour and becomes their flagship event
The Saudi International event, which has been held at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club for the past two years will now become the flagship event for the Asian Tour, but it will not be one of the 10 new events to feature as part of the new series. The tournament now has an enticing $5 million prize fund, designed to entice the Major winners and Ryder Cup stars to tee it up in the Kingdom, as it has in previous years. Though depending on what a source has told us, this could be an indicator of the calibre of player that might welcome playing in more events developed by Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Investments.
Building blocks for a global league?
The same source has also disclosed that the developments on the Asian Tour are just building blocks in preparation for a new global golf league, which makes good sense, as you could not claim to have a global league or tour without the inclusion of one of the largest golf markets.
Whether our source is right or not, the LIV life-line that has been given to the Asian Tour and their members could not have come at a better time.
Opportunity for more golfers in Asian
“This is the single biggest development in the history of the Asian Tour and a major milestone for professional golf,” said Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Asian Tour. “The opportunity will secure unprecedented new playing opportunities, establish new player pathways, allow us to compete commercially with other sports, and enhance our social agenda.We are particularly excited at the prospect today’s landmark announcement brings to the amateur game, providing new inspiration to aspiring players through a new level of top-flight professional competition in the region.”
Monday qualifying could create a Corey Conners story in Asia – fingers crossed!
It will be interesting to see if the new playing opportunities on the Asian Tour give professionals in the region an opportunity to shine, through Monday qualifying, and a similar Corey Connors success story could be written. Imagine if an unknown Asian professional were to break into the world’s top 50 within a year. That would be far more impressive than the lavish amounts of prize money being thrown about right now in world golf. If the restructuring of the Asian Tour develops the game of golf through building hope and opportunity, then Greg Norman’s life-long vision could go a long way to solving golf’s aging demographic situation.