Greg Norman’s LIV rebel tour breaks barriers, sells out in Australia
Despite facing opposition from traditionalists and sparking a civil war within the sport, the rebel LIV Golf tour has been embraced by many in Australia, evidenced by tickets selling out for the nation’s inaugural event this week.
Greg Norman, the tour boss, has long desired to see top-level golf become a regular feature in his home country. Australia has experienced a lack of significant tournaments and elite players, primarily due to its remote location.
Although LIV’s controversial backing from Saudi money and its 54-hole no-cut format have been deemed gimmicky, Australian golf enthusiasts have seized the opportunity to witness major winners in action.
Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and local hero and British Open champion Cameron Smith, will compete from Friday to Sunday at The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide. This will be the richest tournament ever witnessed on Australian soil, with a total of US$20 million prize money up for grabs for both individual and team formats.
The high demand for tickets has resulted in ground passes for all three days selling out quickly, prompting organisers to release additional tickets to accommodate the eager spectators.
For the first time since LIV’s inception and the subsequent upheaval last year, the gates will be opened for paying fans to attend the Pro-Am, featuring all 48 players on Thursday.
Norman, a two-time major winner who secured his first professional title at The Grange in 1976, said…
“Since the first day, we announced our league was coming to The Grange, the response and support from the people of Australia has been overwhelming.”
According to reports, LIV Golf is considering a second event in Australia in 2024 to capitalise on demand, with rumours of a third in the future.
Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion, believes there is untapped potential in Australia as the circuit seeks to expand its reach beyond the United States, where interest in LIV has been more subdued. He said…
“When people want us there (in Australia), then, yeah, we obviously want to be there as many times as we can to make them happy. Nobody’s bad-mouthing us down there.”
Later this month, LIV will continue to Singapore, followed by Spain, England, and Saudi Arabia.
Although LIV has attracted renowned names with lucrative contracts, it has also generated conflict and legal disputes with US and European golf authorities.
On the other hand, the smaller PGA Tour of Australia has respected the decision of Smith and other Australians who joined LIV, stating they will always be welcome to play on home soil.
However, not everyone is pleased with LIV making its debut in Australia.
Rebekha Sharkie, an independent MP who represents the electorate of Mayo located south of Adelaide, said…
“I don’t think it’s a good look at all.”
Critics accuse Saudi Arabia of “sportswashing” – utilising sport to deflect from its human rights record, including the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate in 2018.
Nonetheless, players are focusing on the positives LIV can bring to Australian golf in the present and future.
Matt Jones, a two-time Australian Open winner, said…
“Australia has been starved for some real quality fields for golf tournaments for a long time, especially the international players.”
Marc Leishman, another Australian golfer, added that a significant reason for joining LIV was the possibility of additional high-quality tournaments in his home country. He said…
“It’s a big part, among other reasons, why a lot of us guys came over, to be able to take golf back to Australia, spend more time here.”
“Growing up, I remember watching Greg Norman and Steve Elkington and Ian Baker-Finch and all those guys. Kids nowadays don’t get too much of a chance to do that, particularly around Australia.”
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