Australian legend Greg Norman has doubled down on his role as CEO of LIV Golf in a revealing interview for the “People I (Mostly) Admire” podcast with Freakonomics’ Steven Levitt.
In a no-holds-barred sit-down with the American economist, Norman discussed his involvement in the controversial divide of men’s professional golf, and admitted he had no regrets for being the catalyst for change.
“It is the right thing to do,” Norman told Levitt. “And you can’t run through a brick wall without getting bloody.”
Norman made a case that LIV Golf – majority funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – wasn’t doing anything different to what some of the great names before him had done previously.
“(LIV Golf) is the biggest thing to ever happen to the game of golf in over 53 years. And when you think back over time, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and a few others broke away from the PGA of America to the PGA Tour. Why did they do that? They do it as players, right? All their independent rights – to compete. This is no different than what we’re doing today.”
The Shark branded the PGA Tour as “monopolists” that didn’t like change, and that LIV had done what was necessary for the sport by “ruffling some feathers.”
“We ruffled the feathers of a monopolist,” Norman said. “A monopolist who basically controlled the sport for 53 years. I tried to make a bit of a change back in ‘93, ‘94 with the world tour and again ran into the same headwinds back then as what we’re running into now. So they don’t like change. They don’t like competition.
“To see what’s happened today on the PGA Tour, since LIV came onto the scene, a massive amount of capital was injected back into the players on the PGA Tour. So, to be honest with you, the players on the PGA Tour should be giving a standing ovation to LIV, the league, and the players for stimulating this new injection of money.”
Norman also addressed the criticism he has received from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, claiming that they have not taken the time to understand the business platform behind the new competition. He also noted that he has lost some of his closest friends as result of his role in the split, revealing: “Some of my dear friends don’t even speak to me because of this. That’s their choice. If you don’t want to talk to me again, happy days.”
Norman went on to reveal that LIV had been in negotiations to poach a 2022 Major champion.
“I won’t mention this player’s name, but he is a top player. He’s won a Major championship in the last year. I’ll just put it to you that way. And he asked me to come over, to sit down, and show him what the LIV product was all about. He was willing to sit down and listen.
“So myself and another one of my executives went over to his house, and we sat there, and we walked him through the presentation. And he just sat there and looked at me and goes, “Wow, this is nothing like we’ve been told in the locker room.” Now, he decided not to come. But I respect him wholeheartedly because he understood both sides, and he had a decision to make. He could have done whatever he wanted, and he chose to do that.
“Those individuals, I applaud. Those individuals to me have tremendous amount of intelligence and street smart because they wanted to learn what the truth was. What are the facts? What are my opportunities? What are my preferences? Now I’ll make a decision over here.”
Listen to the full People I (Mostly) Admire episode “Greg Norman Takes On the PGA Tour” at freakonomics.com