How the Ryder Cup helped inspire vision for new Saudi-backed golf league

Greg Norman's first trip to the Ryder Cup proved a fruitful one for shaping the vision for LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed golf league which he serves as CEO.

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Greg Norman’s golf bucket list is short.

That’s one of the benefits of life as one of the wealthiest professional golfers ever: You can afford to do the few things you haven’t already. But money is only half of that equation, the other half is time. And, up until September 2021, Greg Norman had never had time for the Ryder Cup.

How is it possible that a two-time major-winner who spent more than six years as the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world has never been to the Ryder Cup? Well, because that two-time major winner is from Australia, which meant he wasn’t allowed to compete in the event.

So, it wasn’t until last September that Norman earned his first Ryder Cup invitation as a broadcaster for the event via SiriusXM. And it didn’t take long for golf’s most storied team event to capture his imagination.

“The time I spent with you guys at the Ryder Cup. It was my first Ryder Cup ever, right?” Norman told hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz on this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar. “That was a game-changer in my mind about watching the fans, seeing the fans engage, seeing the players engage with the fans.”

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Today, Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Investments, a Saudi-backed venture in the process of forming a rival league to the PGA Tour. On Wednesday, LIV Golf announced the creation of an eight-event international series featuring $250 million in prize pool money. As part of the series, each event will feature a “team” component, with an additional $5 million in purse money distributed to the winning team.

According to Norman, it was his experience at the Ryder Cup that convinced him to incorporate a team component in the new league — not for the players, but for the fans.

“I’ll never forget sitting in the booth guys we were overlooking the first tee, and you see JT and Daniel Berger come out there and fire up the crowd before the rest of the team came on board,” Norman said. “That gave me goosebumps, to be honest with you. And I thought, ‘There it is. That is exactly what the fans are looking for.'”

So, what is it about the Ryder Cup that Norman is hoping to capture?

“They’re looking for that connectivity, that something different, that vibrance, that excitement, that entertainment,” he said. “If I hadn’t seen that and I hadn’t been there, maybe my perception would be a little bit different, because the Presidents Cup, yeah it’s a team event, but it’s nowhere near the magnitude, the energy and the velocity of what the Ryder Cup is.”

A team series of any kind, of course, could lead to some controversy with the PGA Tour, which has promised to ban anyone leaving for the rival league. But with a little less than three months to go until LIV Golf’s first event, Norman says his concerns are closer to home.

“I can’t comment as to what the PGA Tour’s going to do,” he said. “We promised we were going to deliver something new for the game of golf. To give opportunities to actually create more entertainment in the game of golf. To give opportunities for the fans, too, to find something different.”

To hear the rest of Norman’s interview, check out the video below.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.