The first groups of golfers have been revealed for The R&A Celebration of Champions but Australian legend Greg Norman won’t be one of them after the R&A confirmed it told the LIV Golf commissioner he won’t be welcome at the 150th Open festivities.
The R&A has invited an all-star cast of past Open champions, women’s Major champions, male and female amateur champions, and golfers with disability champions to compete over the first, second, 17th and 18th holes of the famous Old Course in celebration of the historic playing of golf’s original championship. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are among the big names set to take part next week but two-time Champion Golfer of the Year Norman has been banished.
Australian Golf Digest contacted Norman on Saturday to find out whether he would be travelling to St Andrews to join the festivities, which begin on Monday, July 11.
“No. The R&A sent me a letter asking me not to attend,” Norman said.
Australian Golf Digest contacted the R&A for comment, prompting a media statement being distributed on Saturday evening confirming their decision.
“In response to enquiries regarding The R&A Celebration of Champions field and the Champions’ Dinner, we can confirm that we contacted Greg Norman to advise him that we decided not to invite him to attend on this occasion,” the statement read. “The 150th Open is an extremely important milestone for golf and we want to ensure that the focus remains on celebrating the Championship and its heritage. Unfortunately, we do not believe that would be the case if Greg were to attend. We hope that when circumstances allow Greg will be able to attend again in future.”
Norman returned fire Saturday night, telling AGD he was disappointed with the governing body’s statement.
“I’m disappointed. I would have thought the R&A would have stayed above it all given their position in world golf. (It’s) petty, as all I have done is promote and grow the game of golf globally, on and off the golf course, for more than four decades.”
The ban follows the R&A’s decision to deny Norman’s written request to play the 150th Open itself. Norman had hoped he might be given an exemption as a two-time past champion but at 67 years of age he is well outside the limit of 60, which is the R&A’s rule for that category.
“The entry terms and conditions for The Open stipulate that a champion must be aged 60 or under or have won the championship in the previous 10 years to be exempt from qualifying. That remains the case for The 150th Open and we have no plans for any additional exemptions,” the R&A said on that occasion.
Ahead of next week’s Celebration of Champions spectacle, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said: “We have planned a very special celebration of golf for fans to attend and I’m sure they will be excited at the prospect of watching the greatest names in golf, as well as the future stars of the sport, come together to play over the Old Course at St Andrews.
“We are deliberately inviting a field that represents the past, present and future of this game we all love and reflects our purpose to ensure that golf is seen as welcoming, accessible and can be played by anyone who wants to. It will be a lot of fun and we look forward to revealing the full draw on Monday before enjoying a fitting celebration of this great Championship at the home of golf.”
Woods, who will play alongside McIlroy, 2018 Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall and two-time champ Lee Trevino said, “This is going to be a special week of golf, and having many of the sport’s great champions and future stars play in this event is a great way to mark this historic championship. St Andrews has such a unique atmosphere, and I’m looking forward to playing in front of the fans again and on a course that holds fantastic memories for me.”
The full draw will be announced on the morning of Monday, 11 July and starting from 3pm, golfers will play in teams of four with the best two scores out of four counting on each hole. The team with the lowest total over the four holes will be declared the winners.
The R&A Celebration of Champions will be broadcast live from St Andrews to millions offans around the world on TV. It will also be available to view digitally on TheOpen.com and The Open’s YouTube channel, while fans can also follow the action via The Open Radio, The Open App and The Open’s various social channels.
Norman has become the face of LIV Golf, a golf tour operation majority-funded by the Saudi Arabia government. The LIV Golf Invitational Series has already held two events – one just outside of London and the second in Portland – and has signed high-profile players from the PGA and DP World Tours on lucrative contracts, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau.