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Jack Nicklaus rejects $100m to be face of Saudi-backed golf tour

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Legend Jack Nicklaus, pictured at the 2006 Masters Tournament, tells Saudi-backed series he must stay loyal to PGA Tour

American golf legend Jack Nicklaus turned down $100 million to become the face of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, which debuts in London next month and is tipped as a controversial new rival to the PGA Tour, it was reported this week.

“I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis,” Nicklaus, who counts 18 major titles among his 73 PGA Tour wins, was quoted as saying in an article by the Fire Pit Collective.

“I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, ‘Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour’,” he added.

LIV Golf Investments was launched in October 2021 and is set to organise a series of eight events, with a total prize haul of $255 million. The series, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – the Public Investment Fund – will stage its debut event from June 9 to 11 at the Centurion Club outside London, following up with more events in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

While Nicklaus declined the Saudi offer, former world No. 1 Greg Norman was announced as the CEO last year. The PGA Tour last week rejected requests from players for authorisation to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series and there has been frenzied speculation as to which international golf stars will turn up for the event in London next month.

Lee Westwood is among the golfers reported to have requested to be released from the PGA Tour to take part in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series in London

Reuters reported that Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood had requested to be released by the PGA Tour to take part in the event. “No tour in this world owns golf,” Norman was quoted as saying. “There’s been a monopoly in place for 53 years.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Rory McIlroy, a twice PGA Championship winner, who once said the LIV Series tour was dead, backtracked slightly on his criticism.

“I might have been a little presumptuous at that point. I think we’re just going to have to see how it plays out. Honestly, it’s going to shape the future of professional golf one way or another, so I think we’re just going to have to see how it all shakes out,” he was quoted as saying.

Tiger Woods, regarded as one of the world’s greatest golfers, was more ambiguous in his comments: “I believe in legacies… I believe in major championships. I believe in big events and comparisons to historical figures of the past. There’s plenty of money out here. The Tour is growing. But it’s like any other sport, it’s like tennis, you have to go out there and play for it. We have the opportunity to go ahead and do it — it’s just not guaranteed up front,” he was quoted as saying by The Times newspaper.

While Nicklaus was not keen on Saudi Arabia’s $100 million offer, he does have links to the kingdom. In February last year it was announced the 82-year-old will design a signature private championship golf course at Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia’s entertainment city, located around 40 minutes from the capital of Riyadh.

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