LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman said Tuesday that he was asked not to participate in the QBE Shootout, an event he has founded and hosted since 1989.
The 54-hole competition between teams of two players will be held on the Norman-designed Gold Course at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida from December 9-11.
“Unfortunately, after 33 straight years of playing and hosting every Shootout tournament – a co-sanctioned PGA Tour event – since I founded it in 1989, this year I was asked not to attend,” Norman wrote on Instagram. “Why would anyone ask? Maybe it’s because I’m helping to give golf a new pulse, creating new value and delivering a new product that is loved by players, fans and broadcasters. And in doing so, finally giving players their rights as independent contractors to benefit from their performance and brand. In some people’s minds, this is very upsetting and evolution is seen as a bad thing. I disagree – competition breeds excellence.”
QBE Shootout director Rob Hartman said the tournament had been talking to Norman about his role for months.
“As we got closer, the decision was finally made that he was going to step back and really let the focus remain on our tremendous charitable partners,” Hartman told the Naples Daily News. “When he started this event 34 years ago, it was all about charity at the time and now it’s all about charity. Greg just made the decision that he didn’t want anything to distract him.”
In July, the R&A decided not to invite two-time champion Norman to the celebration of the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews. R&A said it hoped Norman would be able to appear again in the future “when circumstances allow”.
LIV Golf, funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, joined a handful of its players as a plaintiff in a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour last month. The plaintiffs accused the PGA Tour of wrongfully suspending golfers for playing in LIV Golf events and illegally using its monopoly power to crush competition.
“Change is good,” Norman wrote on Tuesday. “Pro golf product evolution and innovation has been needed for decades – just ask the next generation of golf fans.”
According to Norman, QBE Shootout has raised over $15 million for charities.
“These charities, their missions and the financial benefits they receive from Shootout tournament donations each year are of the utmost importance to me and my family,” Norman wrote. “As such, I have decided not to attend this year’s event so the focus can remain on the quests at hand.”
Norman founded the tournament, then called the RMCC Invitational, at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California. It was later called Shark Shootout and moved to Naples in 2001.
At the 1994 Shark Shootout, Norman met with PGA Tour players behind closed doors to discuss his concept for a new World Tour. The plan included the top 30 to 40 players competing in eight events with $3 million purses. He would have secured a 10-year commitment from Fox to televise the tournaments. Norman’s proposed league never took off.
At the time, the PGA Tour said in a statement that it would bar its members from competing in World Tour events “by enforcing our televised release and conflicting event regulations”.