In a wide-ranging interview with The New Yorker, Saudi Golf chief executive Majed Al Sorour escalated the ongoing divide in professional golf and threatened to “to set up our own majors” if the Grand Slam events banned players who joined LIV Golf.
The four major championships – run by the USGA, R&A, PGA of America and Augusta National – have been largely aloof when it comes to the players who joined the Saudi-backed league but in July, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers suggested that could change.
“I never said the best golfers will not be able to play. We will hold totally true to The Open being open to anybody,” Slumbers said. “But we may well look at how you get into that, whether it’s an exemption or a need to qualify through our qualifying process.”
Sorour, a businessman with connections to the Saudi royal family, didn’t give details how LIV Golf and Saudi Golf would create their own majors but given the breakaway circuit’s history, larger purses and more money would be the obvious pathway.
“For now, the majors are siding with the [PGA] Tour, and I don’t know why,” Sorour told The New Yorker. “If the majors decide not to have our players play? I will celebrate. I will create my own majors for my players. Honestly, I think all the tours are being run by guys who don’t understand business.”
The 6,500-word story also outlined how Phil Mickelson’s comments earlier this year nearly unraveled LIV Golf. In a story published in February on the Fire Pit Collective website, Mickelson called the Saudis “scary motherf—–s” to deal with and cited the country’s poor human rights record. The comments caused some players, like Dustin Johnson, to turn back toward the PGA Tour and forced Sorour and LIV Golf to alter the circuit’s rollout.
“I called the boss [Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund] and said, ‘Everyone’s walking away. Do you want to do it, or not?’” Sorour said. “Get the biggest mediocres, get the 10 [players] that we have, get you and I, and let’s go play for $25 million.”
According to the story, the “mediocres” were lesser-known players to fill in for the likes of Johnson, who later joined LIV Golf.
Sorour also pushed back on Mickelson’s claims of his country’s poor human rights record, saying, “We don’t kill gays, I’ll just tell you that.”
He also dismissed reports that LIV Golf offered Tiger Woods $700 million to join the league. “It’s not straight-out money, I never offered him that money – not even close to that,” he said.