TULSA, Okla. — If the Saudi Arabian investors behind the LIV Golf Invitational Series had their way, Jack Nicklaus — not Greg Norman — would have been the face of their new breakaway circuit.
In a story published on the Fire Pit Collective website on Monday, Nicklaus said he twice turned down offers to lead the Saudi Arabians’ efforts to start a new golf league that hopes to challenge the PGA Tour.
“I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg is doing,” Nicklaus said. “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.'”
Nicklaus, 86, was among the players who split from the PGA of America and hired Joe Dey as the tour’s first commissioner in 1968. He won 73 times on tour, including a record 18 major championships.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series is scheduled to stage its first event at Centurion Club outside London, on June 9-11. The eight-event LIV series will feature five tournaments played in the United States. It will include seven regular-season events and a team championship match play finale at Trump Doral in Miami from Oct. 28 to 30.
Last week, the PGA Tour denied conflicting-event releases for players who had requested them to play in London.
The second Saudi event is scheduled for July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon. Tuesday is the deadline for requesting a release from the tour for that event. Defending PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson is among the players who had requested a release to play in the first LIV Golf event. He is not in the field for this week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills and hasn’t played since late January, while taking a break from golf after his controversial comments about the tour and the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s alleged human rights violations.
“My advice to Phil? My advice to Phil would be to be patient,” Nicklaus told Fire Pit Collective. “The world is a very forgiving place. But he’s the one- he has to decide where he wants to play and what he wants to do.”