LIV chief Greg Norman turns up for Masters as paying customer

LIV chief Greg Norman stuns Augusta by turning up for Masters as paying customer
Greg Norman is in Augusta for the Masters this week - Getty Images/David Cannon

Greg Norman made a surprise appearance at the Masters on Wednesday as a paying customer and expressed his disappointment that more of his LIV players have not been invited to the season’s first major.

Telegraph Sport revealed on Tuesday that a high-ranking LIV official was set to drop in, but nobody expected it to be the chief executive who has such a torrid Masters history with three runners-up finishes.

With negotiations going on between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund – which bankrolls LIV – tensions have clearly thawed, although it was pointed of Norman to enter the grounds as a member of the public, with no access to the inner sanctums of the clubhouse where the game’s powerbrokers annually assemble.

Norman was not invited last year, telling Telegraph Sport: “As a major winner I always was before, but they only sent me a grounds pass last year and nothing, zilch, this time around. I’m disappointed because it’s so petty but of course I’ll still be watching.”

He was here to be seen, wearing his trademark fedora spotting the Great White Shark logo. “I’m here because we have 13 players that won 10 Masters between them,” Norman told the Washington Post. “So I’m here just to support them, do the best I can to show them, ‘Hey, you know, the boss is here rooting for you.’”

Norman believes there should be more of the rebels in the field. “I think there’s probably a couple that have been overlooked that should be in,” Norman said. “What is that number? I’m not going to give it a definitive number, but they’re definitely quality players that have done incredible performances over the last six to nine months that are worthy of it.”

LIV chief Greg Norman stuns Augusta by turning up for Masters as paying customer
Greg Norman meets Australian Min Woo Lee - Getty Images/David Cannon

His comments were well-timed. Earlier, in the media centre, Augusta chairman Fred Ridley had told LIV players aggrieved at not playing here that if they were good enough they would have been invited.

Talor Gooch, last year’s LIV champion, was so incensed at missing out on the season’s first major that he claimed Sunday’s winner should have an asterisk to his name. But Ridley dismissed the notion with a thinly veiled dig at the quality of the breakaway circuit.

“I will say that if we felt that there were a player or players, whether they played on the LIV Tour or any other tour, who were deserving of an invitation to the Masters, that we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations,” Ridley at his annual state of the game press conference.

Ridley pointed out that Augusta did invite a LIV player this year in Joaquin Niemann after the Chilean won the Australian Open and finished in the top four at the Dubai Desert Classic in January. The case of Gooch was complicated by the fact that the Masters is in the habit of only extending special invites to international players.

Ridley is on the board of the Official Golf World Rankings, which last year refused LIV’s application to be granted status, meaning that the rebel players have no access to points and would thus find it almost impossible to rise into the world’s top 50.

Because of this, LIV believes that the majors should give exemptions off their money list. But Ridley all but shut this down. “Presently we do use the Official World Golf Rankings,” he said. “We believe that it is a legitimate determiner of who the best players in the game are. There’s been communication that’s been public regarding, you know, the LIV’s application, which subsequently was withdrawn after some remedial suggestions were made regarding pathways and access to players and concern about some of the aspects of team golf.

“I think it will be difficult to establish any type of point system that had any connection to the rest of the world of golf because they’re basically, not totally, but for the most part, a closed shop. There is some relegation, but not very much. It all really depends on what new player they sign.”

Norman: ‘LIV is focused on delivering what we promised the world’

Ridley also confirmed that the club is backing the plans of the two governing bodies – the R&A and US Golf Association – to bring in restrictions to limit how far the ball can travel. The PGA Tour has stated its opposition to the new regulations which will be introduced in 2028. By revising the speed at which balls are tested, pros will lose up to 20 yards with their drivers.

“I’ve said in the past that I hope we will not play the Masters at 8,000 yards but that is likely to happen in the not too distant future under current standards,” Ridley said. “Accordingly, we support the decisions that have been made by the R&A and the USGA as they have addressed the impact of distance at all levels of the game.”

Ridley urged the Tour to accept the proposals. “I certainly hope they will be, were they not it would cause a great deal of stress in the game it doesn’t need right now,” he said.

Goodness knows which way LIV and Norman will jump on the ball issue. They will probably take the populist view if his statements on the final practice day are any gauge.

“Walking around here today, there’s not one person who said to me, ‘Why did you do LIV?’” he said. “There’s been hundreds of people, even security guys, stopping me, saying, ‘Hey, what you’re doing is fantastic.’ To me, that tells you that what we have and the platform fits within the ecosystem, and it’s good for the game of golf.”

Norman is not involved with the negotiations but claimed he is glad of that exclusion. “LIV is completely autonomous to that, to be honest with you,” Norman said. “I’m not even privy to any of the conversations, which I’m happy about because we’re focused on delivering what we have promised the world we would deliver.”