The chief executive of the breakaway LIV golfing series has made the bombshell claim that he would “create my own majors” should golf’s traditional premier competitions bar LIV players from competing.
Majed Al Sorour, a Saudi businessman connected to the royal family, played a key role in the formation of the cashed-up rebel organisation that has driven a wedge through the heart of the golfing world.
Now he has boldly claimed that he would “celebrate” if the Masters, US Open, Open and USPGA banned LIV golfers from competing.
The LIV tour currently does not earn players official world ranking points – the key pathway to qualifying for the majors – given the revised format of the new competition.
That has led to a fierce and ongoing fight over whether LIV rebels should be allowed to compete in the iconic quartet of traditional tourneys in the future.
But in a wide-ranging interview with The New Yorker, Sorour made the radical claim he would simply create his own version of the majors should LIV players be banned.
“For now, the majors are siding with the Tour, and I don’t know why,” Sorour said. “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 comments were met with strong criticism in the golfing world.
Golf writer Dan Rapaport said it could be a death blow for established golf.
“I’ve long wondered, and I’ve spoken about this publicly, what’s stopping the Saudis from, if the majors continue to hold firm, simply saying ‘f— the Masters, I’m going to have my own Masters on the same weekend and quadruple the purse?”,” he wrote.
“There’s nothing stopping them, and now it’s clear that Sorour’s at least considered the possibility.
“Make no mistake: this is how a sport dies,” he added.
The majors are steeped in history and tradition – one of the key factors in convincing some PGA Tour stars not to take Saudi riches and jump ship to LIV.
For LIV, it would be impossible to replicate or replace that history. Increasing the already-ridiculous prize money on offer for players would seem to be the only way in which LIV could forge their own ‘majors’.
The 48-player LIV fields currently compete for $25 million USD in each regular event, with the final competition of the new season, in Miami next week, set to offer double that prizemoney.
However, the qualification procedures for future majors are likely to be reviewed to offer LIV players a path to competing.
As R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said during The Open: “I never said the best golfers will not be able to play. We will hold totally true to The Open being open to anybody.
“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.”
LIV BOSS HITS BACK AT INFAMOUS MICKELSON QUOTE
In the New Yorker piece, Al Sorour also responded to Phil Mickelson’s infamous quotes in February about the Kingdom’s human rights record.
The six-time major winner, speaking to journalist Alan Shipnuck in an interview Mickelson later claimed was off-record, called the Saudis “scarymotherf——” to work with.
“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” he said, referring to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?
“Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Al Sorour said in the new report: “We don’t kill gays, I’ll just tell you that.”
He added that Mickelson’s comments – and the series of players who hit out at the Saudi backing of the new competition – nearly brought the whole thing down.
“I called the boss [Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund bankrolling LIV] and said, ‘Everyone’s walking away. Do you want to do it, or not?’” Sorour said.
He then revealed his plan was to fill their early fields with ‘mediocres’.
“Get the biggest mediocres, get the 10 that we have, get you and I, and let’s go play for $25 million (USD).”
He also denied reports that Tiger Woods had been offered – and turned down – a reported sum of 700 to 800 million USD.
Sorour said: “It’s not straight-out money. I never offered him that money, not even close to that.”