TULSA, Okla. — Before Greg Norman was approached to lead LIV Golf Investments and its desire to start a new golf league, Jack Nicklaus was the first choice of the Saudi-backed initiative — for in excess of $100 million.
In an interview with the Fire Pit Collective website, Nicklaus said he twice turned down the offer due to his allegiance to the PGA Tour.
"I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg is doing," Nicklaus said. "I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, “Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour.'"
Nicklaus, 82, the winner of 73 PGA Tour events and 18 major championships, was among a group of players — including Arnold Palmer — who helped the Tournament Players Division of the PGA of America split into a separate entity that eventually became the PGA Tour.
The PGA of America, which oversees more than 28,000 club pros across the country, still runs the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship, which is being played this week at Southern Hills Country Club.
Noticeably absent is defending champion Phil Mickelson, who also skipped the Masters in the aftermath of considerable backlash that came because of his association with Norman and the LIV Golf plans.
LIV Golf has scheduled a series of eight events this year, with $25 million purses for the first seven and a $50 million season-ending purse for a team event. Its first tournament is next month outside of London and Mickelson was among several players who asked for and were denied a release from the PGA Tour to play. Mickelson’s next step is unclear.
“My advice to Phil? My advice to Phil would be to be patient," Nicklaus told the website. “The world is a very forgiving place. But he’s the one — he has to decide where he wants to play and what he wants to do.’’