Golf’s Norman Conquest – that is, Greg’s Norman Conquest – is set to launch in England’s ancient Roman stronghold of St Albans.
The Australian entrepreneur’s controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series flag has been planted at the lavish Centurion Club amid feverish talk that the sport is about to be plunged into a battle for its future, if not its very soul.
The pre-tournament skirmishes were brutal, with a host of the world’s best golfers battered and bloodied by the media ready to embroil them as money-hungry PR men for a discredited Saudi regime.
Yet one by one, from Phil Mickelson to Dustin Johnson to Ian Poulter, they’ve braved public flogging to protest that they’re ready to march into their brave new world of shotgun starts, team golf and tournaments laden with entertainment with missionary zeal.
Uh, just one thing. Where’s their general with the Crocodile Dundee hat?
For Norman, while apparently on hand behind the scenes at the Centurion this week, has, remarkably enough, been nowhere in the public build-up to the event.
LIV staff on the site have fielded numerous requests for the ever-outspoken 67-year-old CEO to talk about his breakthrough event, golf’s richest so far this year – but they’ve been told he’s had won’t speak in the buildup this week.
Perhaps he fears being thrown on social media again after his shark attack last month for answering questions about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the comment: “We have all made mistakes…”
Instead, his only comments this week were to the Washington Post, revealing that Tiger Woods rejected a nearly billion dollar inducement to join LIV, accusing the saintly Jack Nicklaus of being a ‘hypocrite’ and suggesting that LIV’s non-believer, Rory McIlroy, was brainwashed.
Maybe that was controversial enough to continue.
So Norman left it to LIV’s top recruits to take on the Inquisition for him – and it didn’t look pretty.
Mickelson was asked if he was comfortable being seen as a Saudi stooge. Johnson was put on notice to put money before country. Poulter wondered if he would play in a tournament hosted by Vladimir Putin if the money was good.
Still, regardless of his rookies getting verbally beaten, Surely Norman can only quietly celebrate a string of significant wins for LIV this week.
With Johnson and Kevin Na deserting the PGA Tour, and Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed also reportedly jumping on ship LIV, Norman’s company will have at least nine big winners on board by the end of the month, possibly more.
And that’s before a ball was even hit Thursday at Centurion. In fact, make these 16 balls simultaneously around the course from the shotgun tee.
Because LIV prides itself on offering golf – but not as we know it.
So there will be a fleet of London black cabs ferrying the 48-player field to their teeing holes against the backdrop of an aerobatic show, a fan village, a children’s area and a metaverse tent, whatever. .
There will be team competition alongside the individual, with shorter, sharper action that doesn’t drag all day. It’s more like T20 golf, one player suggested this week.
Then at the end of each of the three days, a big name will entertain the bettors in the “Après Golf” concert hall.
On Saturday, the headliner will be Jessie J, who will no doubt sing her now hallowed line: “It’s not about the money, the money, the money…”
Which is, of course, what the silent emcee has been protesting against all along.