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Greg Norman skirts tough questions on funding, Phil: 'I’m not getting into this political dialogue'

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On the heels of the LIV Golf Invitational Series’ schedule release, Greg Norman isn’t ready to reveal further details.

Appearing on Gary Williams’ Five Clubs Podcast, Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf Investments, fielded several tough questions about the Saudi-backed golf league, including names of players who had committed or signed contracts, when the first tournament field would be announced, Phil Mickelson’s controversial comments and if Norman was concerned at all about where the investment money was coming from.

And Norman didn’t really answer any of them, instead falling back on statements like “I’m not a politician” and “I’m focused on growing the game of golf.” He did add that the league was still “a reality,” despite players such as Rory McIlroy declaring it “dead in the water.”

“We are here for the long term,” Norman said. “We aren’t just in and out.”

With eight events planned for an inaugural season, including the kickoff tournament June 9-11 in London, there are some details that are now known. All but one of the events have host courses, and the format will feature 54 holes and shotgun starts. But that’s it.

“There are contracts, but I’m not going to give out any names on that,” Norman said when pressed on commitments to the league. He later said that invitations would be going out “very shortly.”

LIV Golf league set to launch with eight events

LIV Golf league set to launch in June with eight events that culminate in October with a team championship.

Norman also spoke on the league’s ongoing battle with the PGA Tour. He compared obstacles that he believes the Tour is throwing at LIV Golf to putting a “giant redwood tree right across our road,” none bigger than potential lifetime bans from the Tour if any player signs onto the new league.

While Norman previously has stated that he’s prepared to take the issue to court, he said to Williams that such action is a path that LIV Golf doesn’t want to go down. Rather Norman said he wants to have a “sit-down” with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and “work this thing out.”

“We’re not asking them (Tour players) to play one tour or the other,” Norman said. “They have a choice to go play both.”

Norman was specifically asked about Mickelson, who told writer Alan Shipnuck in a November interview released last month that he was using the Saudi league as leverage against the Tour, which Mickelson accused of “obnoxious greed” in a different interview. Mickelson also called the Saudis “scary motherf---ers” and admitted that he wasn’t even sure he wanted the new league to succeed.

“He made a mistake,” said Norman, who revealed that he had recently talked to Mickelson.

“Phil’s entitled to his opinion, right?” Norman continued. “At the end of the day, I feel sad for Phil. I think he hurt himself. I think he hurt the game of golf. I’ve been reading the comments … off the record, on the record, who knows – they’re out there. I look into the future; I don’t look into the past. We’ve dealt with those issues. We’ve understood those issues. I’ve spoken to Phil as recently as two days ago. You move on. You move forward. Everybody on this planet, not one person who hasn’t said something they’d wish they had never said.

“We had a very open conversation. … But as I told Phil, ‘You always will have an open door to the game of golf.’”

So, is Mickelson still committed to play LIV Golf’s events? “I can’t speak for Phil or any other player,” Norman said.

Williams wasn’t hesitant to ask questions or follow-ups regarding Saudi Arabia’s poor human-rights record or sportswashing. Norman, however, skirted answering them directly.

“We’re not a political organization,” Norman said. “And what we’ve done and what the PIF have done and what Saudi Arabia has done, like I said to you before, golf is good for the world and golf is good with Saudi Arabia.”

He later added: “My passion for the game of golf and growing the game of golf is my priority. … This is all about the game of golf and growing the game of golf. I’m not even going to go down that path of trying to get into a political discussion about it. I’m focused on growing the game of golf the best way I possibly can. End of story.”

While Norman did bring up the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – “What happened to the journalist, Khashoggi, is reprehensible. There’s not a person on this planet that wouldn’t say the same thing.” – he continually resorted to platitudes.

“From my perspective, I’m not getting into this political dialogue,” he said. “… I’m staying focused on what I’m doing and growing the game of golf.”