Greg Norman, the head of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tower, faced some conservative criticism Tuesday after he met with a group of House Republicans behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.
Norman, on a trip to Washington as part of a public relations push to sell lawmakers on the benefits of the PGA Tour’s new rival, was also questioned during the Republican Study Committee meeting on the Saudi funding of his league.
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia – and has pledged $250 million in total prize money.
Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, suggested he had no words with Norman, who told the Republican the purpose of his tour is “competition” — a claim Roy thought was “nonsense,” though he said he’ there are happy to talk to Norman further.
“Don’t sell us, ‘This is just about competition’ if they’re not going to answer about a billion dollars to buy PGA players, resulting in a billion dollars in PR for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Roy told CNN, saying that she may be in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
LIV Golf has spent eye-popping sums to poach top PGA tour players, reportedly offering nine figures for individuals just to sign with the new league and huge purses for the winners of their tournaments. In early August, Norman confirmed on Fox News that golf legend Tiger Woods turned down an offer of around $700-$800 million to join LIV Golf.
Rep. Jim Banks, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told CNN that it was a “lively discussion” and that Norman was “well received by our members.”
The Indiana Republican noted that Norman asked to meet with his group, which has regular meetings with outside guests.
“Some members addressed the Saudi-backed funding. That came up in the discussion, and Mr. Norman addressed those issues,” Banks said. “He explained how the investment fund was established and other investments they have made in the United States. He promised to sit with members individually.
Banks said that “there was no demand” by Norman for Congress to act on behalf of the league and that the purpose of the meeting was more “public relations” than anything else.
Banks added: “If Tiger Woods wants to come in and talk about the PGA and his issues with LIV Golf, we’d love to have him too.”
LIV Golfers have not been allowed to play in this week’s Presidents Cup, a biennial competition that pits an international team against an American team, which will be held on Thursday.
For international captain Trevor Immelman that proved a selection headache with players such as Open champion Cameron Smith, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen not playing.
“I would say very disruptive is probably an understatement,” Immelman told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell. “It’s certainly been an interesting process.”
The American team is exposed to the same problem with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, all unavailable after switching to the LIV Golf series.
But opposing captain Davis Love III arguably has more depth at his disposal than Immelman, who lamented the absence of some “incredible players” from the team.
The International Team has an unfavorable record in the Presidents Cup having won only once in 13 editions of the competition.
“In the last year or so, when these fractures (between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour) started to happen, every player on our team knew exactly what the rules were and knew what decisions they had to make to have the opportunity to play in the Presidents Cup,” he added.
Asked if he would miss the likes of Smith, Niemann and Oosthuizen, Immelman said: “Those guys are incredible players. They are players who have played Presidents Cups. They have the experience of being in that cauldron, understanding what it costs But, you know, like I said, they knew the decisions they had to make to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
“All that information was part of their decision-making process. So the communication was very open. Everyone knew exactly where they stood and they made the decisions they thought were best for them, and I respect their decisions.
This year’s Presidents Cup will be held at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, and will conclude on Sunday.