Norman exposed as writer booted from LIV Golf

Greg Norman has found himself embroiled in controversy on the opening day of the first tournament of the LIV Golf series, after leading golf writer Alan Shipnuck was thrown out of Phil Mickelson’s press conference.

Shipnuck, Mickelson’s biographer and the man who reported his earlier comments about Saudi-funded tour which the golfer claimed were made off the record, says he was “physically removed” by security he described as “goons.”

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“Well, a couple of neckless security dudes just physically removed me from Phil Mickelson’s press conference, saying they were acting on orders from their boss, whom they refused to name. (Greg Norman? MBS? Al Capone?) Never a dull moment up in here,” Shipnuck tweeted.

However, Norman’s involvement in the incident, which was caught on video and has since gone viral, prompted Shipnuck to take aim at the besieged CEO of LIV Golf in a series of posts that included a text exchange with the rebel tour boss.

When Shipnuck reached out to Norman about the issue, the text chain shows the former British Open winner allegedly pleading ignorance.

The text from Shipnuck reads: “Are you aware that I just got muscled out of Phil’s press conference by a couple of your goons? Luckily for you guys I kept my cool and deescalated the situation. Please call me to discuss.”

Norman is alleged to have replied: “Did not hear. Thanks for letting me know.”

Shipnuck then shared a screenshot showing Norman standing behind him watching on as he’s thrown out.

“That’s funny because:” Shipnuck wrote above the photo that showed Norman watching on.

In an email to Golf Week about his removal, Shipnuck said he was dumbfounded by the request to leave.

“This whole situation is messy and ridiculous. If I have another boring golf question for Phil I’ll ask it because I did fly 6,000 miles to be here and I’m not inclined to be silenced by Greg Norman and his goons.

“Or maybe I’ll just focus on Chantananuwat Ratchanon. … he seems like a nice kid.

“I have no ill will toward Phil. I just wanted to ask him one boring golf question, which is my job. Either he is being way too sensitive or the LIV folks are being too overprotective but, either way, they are overreacting.”

“The security guards were inappropriately aggressive and physical, considering I was just standing there trying to make sense of the bizarre reasons they were citing for wanting to remove me”.

Fresh off his one-under 69 showing at the Centurion Club, Mickelson repeatedly declined to answer any questions about the PGA Tour’s decision to ban him, telling reporters he wouldn’t answer such questions no matter how many ways they ask. As for his play, Mickelson said he enjoyed his time on the course.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve played, so I don’t know. It seemed awfully fun,” Mickelson said, via Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig. “The people were terrific and it was fun to hit some good shots and get in a competitive frame of mind again. I really enjoyed it.

“It’s a very cool energy here.”

The fury of LIV Golf — a product of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund — was clear, calling the PGA Tour “vindictive” after its decision, stating the move will only deepen the divides. There were no signs of the Saudi backing across the Centurion Club in England, no sponsor branding.

Mickelson was sporting a black cap adorned by his personal logo featuring a silhouette of himself playing golf, replacing the KPMG-branded one that was worn before the corporate sponsors dropped the deal in February after he disparaged the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia.

Across the course, the only branding was from LIV Golf and a sparse number of spectators in attendance. There was intrigue from those who did turn up, accompanied by a desire to see so many of the world’s leading golfers, although none from the top 10.

Unlike many spectators, Jim Dawkins, who has been coming to golf events for six decades, did pay around $118 for his pass to the club between Hemel Hempstead and St. Albans.

“I thought as this was the first tournament of the rebel tour it would be interesting to see how it works and who is playing,” said the 91-year-old Dawkins, who railed against the PGA Tour banning players. “I’ve seen an awful lot of changes.”

LIV is running curtailed 54-hole, three-day tournaments, with a shotgun start seeing players all tee off on different holes. What confused Dawkins is the team element.

The field is split into 12 teams with garish logos and brash names, like Dustin Johnson’s 4 Aces and Graeme McDowell’s Niblicks.

“I find this scoreboard difficult to follow,” said Dawkins, who traveled from the south of London. “You have got the players up there. I don’t know how the teams are set up.”

The top three teams share $7 million on top of the $28 million prize fund per event shared between the golfers individually.

To accept the lavish rewards, the players not only had to overcome concerns about being banned from the PGA Tour and events like the Ryder Cup, but also moral doubts.

This is a series viewed as being part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, branded “sportswashing” by human rights groups, to wipe away the stain of the kingdom’s abuses.

“It’s absolute rubbish, it’s just a sport,” said Colin Chambers, an 80-year-old friend of Dawkins. “When you think about the Chinese, what they do, and we are still happy to go to their Olympics.”

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