LONDON — It was only this spring that Greg Norman, who twice lifted the claret jug as British Open winner, sought a special dispensation to play in this week’s tournament in St. Andrews, Scotland.
The answer was unequivocal: no.
Not only did Norman have no place on the course, whose role in the new LIV Golf series has made him a pariah in certain golf circles, it turns out Norman isn’t even invited to dinner.
The R&A, which organizes the Open, became the latest golf angle at the weekend to say it had exiled Norman, even temporarily banishing him from a traditional dinner for past Open champions. The move makes this week’s tournament, the final four major golf tournaments of the year, the latest in which players and executives have openly clashed with LIV Golf, the Saudi-sponsored rebel league that has turned the sport into a once crucial faction in Norman.
In a polite but firm statement, the R&A made it clear it had chosen a side. He contacted Norman, he said, “to advise him that we decided not to invite him on this occasion.”
“The 150th Open is a huge milestone for golf and we want to ensure the focus remains on celebrating the Championship and its legacy,” the R&A said. “Unfortunately, we don’t believe that would have been the case if Greg had attended. We hope that when circumstances permit Greg will be able to attend again in the future. “
LIV Golf, whose main financial backer is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Norman, LIV chief executive, told Australian Golf Digest he was “disappointed” and thought the decision was “petty”.
“I would have thought the R&A would have gone above and beyond, given their standing in world golf,” said Norman, whose lone major tournament victories came at the Opens in 1986 at Turnberry and 1993 at Royal St. at George’s.
The public spat between Norman, 67, and the R&A began in April when he expressed his belief in the Australian news media that he could get an exception to the open rules – which allow past champions to enter the qualifier alone if they are aged 60 or younger. and play in the 150th iteration of the tournament, scheduled for Thursday at St Andrews Old Course in Scotland.
Word soon came back that the R&A would offer Norman no such exemption. (The governing body has flexibility: It agreed to Mark Calcavecchia, the 62-year-old pro who won at Royal Troon in 1989, because the Open Championship, expected to be his farewell in 2020, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and he was recovering from surgery last summer.)
But the focus and scrutiny on Norman has only grown in recent months as he brought past champions like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed to the LIV Series, severing their ties to the PGA Tour and turning golf into a reality. Cauldron of Rebellion. His remarks in May, denying Saudi Arabia’s killing and dismemberment of a Washington Post journalist, saying, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes,” drew fresh criticism.
Norman is not the first major champion to skip a gathering of past winners this year because of the furor over Saudi Arabia. Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, was not at the event when it was held at Augusta National Golf Club in April after condemning Saudi Arabia’s “horrendous human rights record”, but said LIV was a “once in a lifetime experience”. An opportunity to change how the PGA Tour operates.
Mickelson is expected to play at St. Andrews this week.