DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Jack Nicklaus says he met with a Saudi Arabian group as a courtesy and had “zero interest” in running a rival golf circuit now being led by Greg Norman.
“I don’t care what kind of money they would have thrown at me. My allegiance has been to the PGA Tour,” Nicklaus said Tuesday at his annual news conference ahead of the Memorial. “I grew up on the PGA Tour. I helped found the PGA Tour as it is today. My allegiance is there and it’s going to stay there.”
Nicklaus was unusually brief, with three questions related to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational series that is set to start next week outside of London and has an eight-tournament schedule, five of them in the United States.
Norman has not announced the 48-man field that will be competing for $20 million in individual play and $5 million for a team concept. The PGA Tour and European tour has denied releases to their players under threat of losing their membership.
Nicklaus had said in an interview with the Firepit Collective that the Saudi group had offered him “something in excess of $100 million,” adding the job was “probably similar” to what Norman is doing. Norman is CEO of LIV Golf Investments, which is organizing the rival league and has pumped $300 million into other Asian Tour events.
In the Firepit Collective story, Nicklaus said he turned the offer down verbally and in writing.
Nicklaus said his design company is building a golf course in Saudi Arabia, and the same group involved with the course came to Florida to meet with him.
“And they proposed this thing to me,” Nicklaus said. “You know, I did it out of courtesy to them because we’re doing a golf course for them. I’ve got zero interest in wanting to do something like that.”
Nicklaus was part of the group that led players to break away from the PGA of America in 1968. The PGA of America oversaw club professionals and tour events, and tour players felt they needed their own division, which eventually became the PGA Tour.
Nicklaus looked much better Tuesday than when when he was on the first tee at the Masters as an honorary starters. He said his inflammation from arthritis has gone down, and he wanted to start playing golf. Along with playing a round at Augusta National with his family, he played consecutive days at Muirfield Village ahead of the Memorial.
He said he did not play at all last year. The down side?
“I haven’t made birdie yet this year,” he said.
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