Saudi-backed golf league showering participants with 'the Tiger Woods treatment'
3rd June 2022

The new Saudi-backed golf league will shower each participant and his caddy with lavish accommodations and parties next week at the first LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club in London, according to a brochure obtained by Telegraph Sport.

The brochure laid out what one Telegraph source called "the Tiger Woods treatment" for all competitors — free flights, stays at a five-star hotel and spa in Hertfordshire, first-class car service and invitations to extravagant events.

One such event is a red carpet "draft party" at RD Studios — a recently renovated film production facility with 45,000 square feet of studio space and a 36,000 square-foot yard. The party will be hosted by celebrity DJ Fat Tony with "cocktails, refreshments and heavy hors d'oeuvres."

The grandeur extends to the Centurion Club as well. Food at the golf course will reportedly be overseen by English and Michelin-starred restauranteur Jason Atherton and English musical acts such as James Morrison and Craig David will also perform afterward.

It's just another carrot dangled in front of the golf world as LIV tries to lure the biggest names in the sport to the new Super Golf League. It's already enticed 2021 Masters winner Dustin Johnson to spurn the PGA Tour for LIV after he was paid a reported $150 million to compete in the new tournament, which kicks off on June 9 with a total prize purse of $25 million.

Who else is competing at LIV?

Johnson is the biggest draw, but he'll be joined by others in the initial 42-person field that includes 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Martin Kaymer, Chase Koepka, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Lee Westwood.

The top five finishers in the Asian Tour International Series event at Slaley Hall Hotel, Spa and Golf resort this weekend will join Johnson and the rest of the group at the LIV Invitational.

The Telegraph believes a sixth golfer will also be added and speculated Phil Mickelson could join after he withdrew from the PGA Championship in May following his incendiary comments about the Saudi Arabian government and his public desire to play in the LIV Invitational.

Controversy surrounding LIV

The much-maligned Super Golf League has endured its fair share of controversy since its inception in 2019.

Firstly, it's backed by the Saudi Arabian government's Public Investment Fund, which invested $2 billion into LIV Golf to supercharge a rival league to the PGA. The politics of Saudia Arabia are murky at best and the subject of much umbrage throughout the world. Mickelson said it best in an excerpt of his new book:

“They’re scary motherf***ers to get involved with. We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay."

It didn't help that LIV CEO Greg Norman brushed off the Saudi Arabian government's human rights violations as "mistakes" in an attempt to de-politicize the league:

“Everybody has owned up to it, right? It has been spoken about, from what I’ve read, going on what you guys reported. Take ownership, no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.

“I don’t look back. I don’t look into the politics of things. I’m not going to get into the quagmire of whatever else happens in someone else’s world. I heard about it and just kept moving on.”

Amnesty International cautioned against golfers joining a league paid for by the Saudis as well:

“Riyadh’s [the capital city of Saudi Arabia] newfound love of sports promotion has come at a time when the Saudi authorities have carried out mass executions, when numerous human rights defenders have been jailed in the Kingdom and when Saudi missiles are still raining down on civilians in Yemen.

“We would urge all golfers tempted to play in Saudi-bankrolled tournaments to consider how sportswashing works and how they might break its spell by speaking out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s persecuted human rights community will feel bitterly disappointed if well-paid golfing superstars take the LIV Golf cash but stay silent about what’s happening in Saudi Arabia."

LIV's competition with the PGA Tour has possibly created an unmendable rift between commissioner Jay Monahan and players who left for the new league. The Tour already denied exceptions for players looking to compete in both LIV and the PGA, and even threatened to revoke Tour cards for players who jump. In a statement obtained by ESPN, the Tour said players who compete in the new league are subject to disciplinary action.

“As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League's London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations. Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action."

It's a brave new world in the sport of golf.

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