It’s a sign of how far Greg Norman has come down the low road to perdition that the major championships he once raised with his presence have come to believe that even shows and dinner parties can only benefit from his absence. .
That sentiment was apparent in April when Augusta National failed to send Norman an invitation to attend the Masters, which he usually extends to all living (non-jailed) major winners. Now the R&A has declined to invite the Great White Pilot Fish to the Celebration of Champions exhibit in St. Andrews on Monday or the Champions Dinner on Tuesday (not a consideration in Georgia). Augusta National and the R&A are not discourtesy organizations. They don’t forget, or at least not accidentally.
“We have contacted Greg Norman to inform him that we have decided not to invite him on this occasion,” the R&A said. “The 150th Open is a hugely important milestone for golf and we want to ensure that the focus remains on celebrating the Championship and its legacy. Unfortunately, we don’t believe that would be the case if Greg were to attend.
“I’m disappointed. I would have thought the R&A would have stayed on top of it all given its standing in world golf,” Norman said.[It’s] petty because all I have done is to promote and develop the game of golf globally, on and off the golf course, for over four decades.
The “everything” to which Norman obliquely refers is relevant. While he would like to peddle a narrative that the R&A is picayune and ignores its past accomplishments, what the governing body is actually doing is acknowledging its current activities. And those activities don’t involve the promotion or growth of golf, but rather its wholesale prostitution for the purposes of Saudi sportswashing, a difference that may not be as obvious to Norman as it is to people who don’t confuse the good of the game. with their personal enrichment and their settling of scores.
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The reality is that Norman’s current efforts matter far more than his past accomplishments in determining whether he should be invited to events at which many attendees view him with thinly disguised contempt.
Despite Norman’s insinuation, this is not a case of the R&A reflexively choosing the PGA and DP World touring sides in a trade dispute with its Saudi-funded LIV Golf. The decision was selfish, of course, but it was made solely in the interest of the R&A, the Open and its side events, not in the interest of Jay Monahan or Keith Pelley.
Norman has already shown an eagerness to use the 150th Open Championship for cheap stunts meant to raise both his profile and that of his new venture. Like when he applied for a spot in the St. Andrews field at 67, though his earned exemption expired at 60 and has gone unused since he was 54. Had he really wanted to compete, Norman could have followed Sandy Lyle’s lead. , the 64-year-old 1985 champion, who entered qualifying this year. Lyle was unsuccessful, but tried the only route available. He didn’t ask for an exemption he wasn’t entitled to, but neither is Lyle known for having a larger-than-life bust of himself in his backyard.
The Celebration of Champions is a special charming event in St. Andrews, where past winners play a short loop on the Old Course to kick off the week on golf’s biggest stage. There will be a strong turnout of the greats on Monday afternoon. Anyone who thinks that would be the case if Norman was also present knows nothing of how he is perceived by many of his fellow players. Likewise, less place settings would be needed for a dinner of champions that included it.
The R&A’s decision signals something that, while increasingly obvious, has not been explicitly stated. That is to say, the most powerful organizations in golf – where possible, without jeopardizing their championships – will hamper stooges who would auction the sport off to MBS. These bodies clearly understand how ruinous LIV’s success would be for the image of golf and its wider economy as corporate marketing dollars seek safer havens.
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Fred Ridley signaled his support for the existing order at the Masters. The PGA of America’s Seth Waugh, who runs both a major and the Ryder Cup, has done it on several occasions. USGA CEO Mike Whan could not change the criteria for the US Open, but suggested he was open to doing so in the future. And even before this week, Martin Slumbers of the R&A fired a wake-up call by removing the Open exemption previously given to the winner of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, a decision taken after that tour discarded Saudi money.
Decisions have consequences, a lesson Norman learned often at major championships.
LIV Golf is a tumor that grows by diminishing everything around it – major championships, established tournaments, tours, once-creditable venues and, above all, reputations. The thing with ruined reputations is that at some point the owner of the tainted name becomes impervious to the stain, which instead taints those with whom it associates. It’s to the credit of the R&A to be willing to go after a man who aims to depreciate the whole sport just to get rich at the breast of a tyrant.