LONDON — It was only this spring that Greg Norman, who twice hoisted the Claret Jug because the winner of the British Open, sought a special dispensation to play on this week’s tournament at St. Andrews in Scotland.
The reply was unequivocal: No.
And never only is there no spot in the sphere for Norman, whose role in the brand new LIV Golf series has made him a pariah in certain golf circles, it seems Norman shouldn’t be even invited to dinner.
The R&A, which organizes the Open, over the weekend became the newest corner of golf to say it had solid Norman into exile, temporarily banishing him even from the normal dinnertime gathering of past Open champions. The move has made this week’s tournament, the last of the yr’s 4 golf majors, the latest flash point as players and executives openly clash over LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded insurgent league that has made a sport Norman once ruled decidedly factional.
In a polite-but-firm statement, the R&A made clear it had chosen a side. It had contacted Norman, it said, “to advise him that we decided not to ask him to attend on this occasion.”
“The one hundred and fiftieth Open is an especially essential milestone for golf and we would like to be certain that the main target stays on celebrating the championship and its heritage,” the R&A said. “Unfortunately, we don’t imagine that will be the case if Greg were to attend. We hope that when circumstances allow Greg will have the opportunity to attend again in future.”
LIV Golf, whose predominant financial backer is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. But Norman, LIV’s chief executive, told Australian Golf Digest that he was “disenchanted” and thought the choice was “petty.”
“I might have thought the R&A would have stayed above all of it given their position in world golf,” said Norman, whose lone victories in major tournaments got here on the Opens in 1986 at Turnberry and in 1993 at Royal St. George’s.
The general public tangle between Norman, 67, and the R&A began in April when he expressed confidence within the Australian news media that he could receive an exemption from Open rules — which permit past champions to enter on that qualification alone in the event that they are 60 or younger — and play within the one hundred and fiftieth iteration of the tournament, scheduled to start Thursday on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Word soon got here back that the R&A would offer Norman no such exemption. (The governing body has flexibility: It agreed to confess Mark Calcavecchia, the 62-year-old skilled who won at Royal Troon in 1989, since the Open that was expected to be his farewell in 2020 was canceled due to coronavirus pandemic and he was recovering from surgery last summer.)
But attention on — and scrutiny of — Norman has only increased within the interceding months, as he has lured past major champions like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed to the LIV series, rupturing their ties to the PGA Tour and turning golf right into a cauldron of acrimony. His statements in May dismissing Saudi Arabia’s murder and dismemberment of a Washington Post journalist by saying, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes,” prompted recent criticism.
Norman shouldn’t be the primary major champion to miss a gathering of past winners this yr due to a furor tied to Saudi Arabia. Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, was absent from the event when it was held at Augusta National Golf Club in April after he condemned Saudi Arabia’s “horrible record on human rights” but said LIV was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson is predicted to play at St. Andrews this week.