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Greg Norman Calls Jack Nicklaus a 'Hypocrite' for Backtracking on LIV Golf

Norman said Nicklaus had originally given his blessing to the Saudi-backed series. Nicklaus has downplayed previous meetings with LIV Golf representatives.

Greg Norman has pushed back on comments from Jack Nicklaus concerning the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, saying the golf legend was a “hypocrite’’ and that he originally gave his blessing to the concept.

Nicklaus said last month he was approached by LIV Golf Investments about taking on a lead role in the venture, but declined. He explained it more detail last week at his Memorial Tournament.

The Nicklaus Companies last month filed a lawsuit against Nicklaus alleging, among other things, that Nicklaus considered taking a role with the company and that his doing so would have hurt the brand.

“One hundred percent truth? Jack’s a hypocrite,’’ Norman said in a lengthy story in the Washington Post that covers far more than his involvement with LIV Golf Investments. “When he came out with those comments, I’m thinking: Jack must have a short memory.’’

Norman said that Nicklaus attended a LIV golf presentation and later wrote in an email that the new league has his blessing.

“Quote-unquote, he said: “This is good for our game. If it’s good for the game of golf, it’s good by me,’’’ Norman said. “So you want the facts? You’ve got the facts. Know what you said before you open your mouth.’’

Norman, 67, long ago viewed Nicklaus, 82, as a mentor. He famously finished second to Nicklaus at the 1986 Masters, where the Golden Bear at age 46 won his sixth green jacket and 18th major title. He shot a final-round 65. Norman, the 54-hole co-leader, bogeyed the final hole to miss a sudden-death playoff.

The LIV Golf International Series kicks off with its first event on Thursday, a 54-hole tournament with a $25 million purse. The new venture is highly controversial, not only because of its Public Investment Fund backing but due to conflicts with the PGA Tour, which views it as a threat.

Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia among the players who are competing in the tournament.

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Jack Nicklaus said last week that he took a meeting with LIV Golf Investments about potentially running the organization’s new league out of courtesy because his golf course design company has a contract to do a course in the country.

Nicklaus had recently told the website the Fire Pit Collective that he had been approached to run the new league that is now being fronted by Norman and offered in excess of $100 million to do so.

Those discussions were part of a lawsuit filed earlier this month against Nickalus by his own company – of which he does not have a controlling interest – alleging that it “saved Mr. Nicklaus from himself by extricating him from a controversial project that could have not only tarnished his legacy and reputation, but severely damaged the Nicklaus Companies’ name, brands and business.’’

LIV Golf officials have said Nicklaus was not offered the same role that Norman now has, but rather an “ambassador’’ type arrangement that he turned down.

“They obviously called me,’’ Nicklaus said. “And we’ve had a contract on a golf course in Saudi Arabia for over a couple of years. Essentially the same group.

“So when they called Jackie -- my son Jackie organized the meeting, and they came into the Bear's Club (in Florida). We met a couple of guys. John Rees and Paul Stringer from the Nicklaus companies were there because we were doing the golf course, and they proposed this thing to me.

“I did it out of courtesy to them because we're doing a golf course for them. I've got zero interest in wanting to do something like that. I don't care what kind of money they would have thrown at me. My allegiance has been to the PGA Tour. I grew up on the PGA TOUR. I helped found the PGA Tour as it is today. My allegiance is there and it’s going to stay there.’’

Nicklaus, along with Arnold Palmer, Gardner Dickinson and Bob Goalby, helped players break away from the PGA of America and found their own players division in 1968. Prior to that, the organization that runs the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup not only oversaw club professionals but the running of tour events.

That split led to what is now known as the PGA Tour.

Golf Saudi is the company whose mission is to help grow golf in the country and encourage tourism, among other things. It was the group that announced Nicklaus’ company would be designing his first course, to be constructed in Quiddiya, 40 minutes from the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The announcement was made in 2020.