Norman not ruling out LIV Golf event in Ireland

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Former US Open champion Grame McDowell says a LIV Golf event in Ireland would be “pretty exciting”

LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman has said he will “keep all options open” as he refused to rule out bringing the tour to Ireland.

The Saudi Arabia-backed LIV tour has held tournaments in England, the United States, Thailand and Australia among others since launching in 2022.

When asked if he’d like to bring an event to Ireland, Norman said the tour’s schedule is “wide open”.

“We’re getting our phone ringing off the hook,” he told BBC Sport NI.

“A lot of people after our first season, seeing the first eight events, ‘OK, when we can we get the opportunity to get LIV here?’

“Our calendar and the opportunity within our calendar on a global basis is filling up very quickly.”

The emergence of the breakaway LIV tour has fractured men’s professional golf over the last year with several top players, including reigning Open champion Cameron Smith and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, lured by its huge prize funds and no-cut events.

Earlier this month, European stalwarts Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood became ineligible for the Ryder Cup after resigning from the DP World Tour having been sanctioned by the European circuit for breaking rules by joining LIV.

Last year, LIV was launched as an eight-tournament invitational series with competitions held in England, the United States, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

It has expanded this year with 14 tournaments including visits to Mexico, Australia, Singapore and Spain, and Norman is receptive to the idea of adding Ireland to the schedule.

“We’re looking at 2025, 2026, 2027 and 2028 now,” added the former world number one.

“The popularity and success have spoken for itself so yes, countries like Ireland who are passionate golf countries, passionate destination countries, not only for Americans but for Europeans to go play there.

“I’ve built golf courses there which I’m very proud of, so from my perspective, we’re going to keep all options open.”

Competition is ‘best thing’ for top golfers

Rory McIlroy has been one of LIV Golf’s most vocal critics over the last 12 months with the four-time major winner remaining loyal to the PGA Tour.

However, McIlroy admitted in March that the emergence of the breakaway tour had “benefitted” the men’s professional game and had forced the PGA Tour to innovate while maintaining that the PGA Tour remains the “best place to play golf”.

Earlier this year, the PGA Tour announced that, from 2024, some of its leading events will have no cuts and smaller fields, similar to LIV.

“He [McIlroy] is starting to see that this is not an exhibition match or a clinic like he said in the past – this is real,” said former world number one Norman.

“These guys are competitors. They want to win and Rory’s no different so I’m glad Rory’s starting to maybe see the light a little bit. I’m glad Rory’s recognised that LIV has truly identified how antiquated the PGA Tour was.

“I’m glad Rory’s recognising that LIV has been a leader in trying to get the PGA Tour to follow us. Why have we done that? Because of the players.”

‘The fans have to want it’ – McDowell

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell, the only LIV player from the island of Ireland, admits the prospect of a tournament on Irish soil is “pretty exciting”.

Last year, McDowell defended his “business decision” to join LIV while admitting he had been hurt by the public backlash he had received.

“First of all the market has to want it, the fans have to want it,” said the 43-year-old Northern Irishman.

“This is a truly global tour and we can take these events anywhere in the world. We’ve got 17 or 18 different nationalities represented out here on LIV from 48 players, which is pretty amazing.

“I think there’s the opportunity to play anywhere in the world. Would I love to play a LIV event in Ireland? Of course I would, but I feel like there are a lot of things that have to happen between now and then.”

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