‘Vengeance under the guise of growing the game’: Analyst blasts LIV, Greg Norman

Greg Norman in July at the LIV Golf event in Portland.

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Greg Norman, she wrote, has taken on the PGA Tour before, and is doing so this time under “an empty promise.” 

LIV Golf, she wrote, is “exhibition golf that has no soul” and is wrecking the sport. 

The LPGA, she wrote, should not only not meet with LIV, it shouldn’t even “contemplate” it. 

In an 837-word post on her website labeled “My Take on LIV,” Dottie Pepper, in fact, opined on the topic. 

You’ve seen and heard others do so since the controversial, Saudi-backed series began play in June, though Pepper’s position in the game gives her a notable view. A two-time major champion, and a 17-time winner overall on the LPGA, she’s also a longtime men’s golf analyst, having worked the past six years for CBS. And Pepper’s comments touched on both sides of the game. 

She started with Norman, the LIV Golf CEO, and encouraged those who read her post to also go back and read a 1994 Washington Post column by Thomas Boswell entitled, “Norman Golfing for Greed in Plans for World Tour.” That piece critiqued Norman’s plans for the World Golf Tour, which wanted to feature 40 players, play eight events and offer both large and guaranteed paydays, but it died before starting. 

LIV Golf has 48-man fields, and this year, it is playing eight no-cut events; next year, 14 tournaments are scheduled. 

“You’ll see that this isn’t the first time Greg Norman proposed a rival tour that would strip the top players in the world from their home tours, pay enormous guarantees and feature no-cut events, all the while turning his back on the PGA Tour, its people and its sponsors… the very foundation that made him an international superstar,” Pepper wrote. 

“Sound familiar? Nearly 30 years time has passed and the story hasn’t changed. This time, Norman just found someone — the Saudi Public Investment Fund — to bankroll his vengeance under the guise of ‘growing the game,’ while promising his LIV players money just for showing up and the luxury of playing less and spending more time at home.”

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Pepper wrote that all of that was a “promise that came with a lot of strings attached.” She noted that Patrick Reed played an Asian Tour event last week “in an attempt to stay relevant within the Official World Golf Rankings” — LIV currently is not recognized by the OWGR, though it has applied for its events to be. She also pointed out that LIV contracts come with provisions, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.  

“The result so far?” Pepper wrote. “A deep divide between those loyal to what we know golf to be since its beginnings: a game of honor, of merit, of respect for those who came before us and those who have taken the easy way out with up-front money to play exhibition golf that has no soul. None of that makes golf a better place. Instead, it reduces it to other sports that spend time in courtrooms trying to gain advantage through means other than winning on the field of play.”

On the subject of the LPGA, Pepper’s thoughts come in light of Norman saying he was interested in a LIV women’s golf series, and LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan telling the Times of London last month that she would “take the call” if Norman ever wanted to talk. Notably, too, women’s golf stars Nelly and Jessica Korda are among those playing this week in an Aramco Team Series event. That series is being presented by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the same fund that backs LIV. 

Pepper wrote that “it would be an enormous mistake to contemplate, let alone agree to, meeting with a group that places so little human value on women.”   

“Aramco, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, has backed a handful of Ladies European Tour events as that tour has struggled, but the line must be drawn by the LPGA,” she wrote. “It must continue the steady work of their founders with its solid sponsor network that showcases the players with respect.”

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Up next between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are tournaments and an eventual court case. This week, the Tour is playing the BMW Championship, the second of its three playoff tournaments, while LIV Golf will play its fourth event this year on Labor Day weekend. The sides will also meet in the courtroom, though not for a while. A group of LIV golfers recently filed an antitrust suit against the Tour alleging that the Tour is unlawfully sanctioning them for signing on with the rival circuit, though a judge said Thursday that the trial wouldn’t start early 2024. 

In her post, Pepper wrapped things up with a question. 

“One last thought: In a world where so many are asking ‘How much can golf pay me?’ how about asking ‘How can I repay golf for what it has given me?’” she wrote. “I know I can never make that gift whole, and I also know I am not alone.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.