Golf writer compares Greg Norman to Al Capone as Aussie lurks in background of video while reporter is chucked out of press conference for asking hard questions about rebel Saudi golf tour
- Greg Norman has been caught out lying to respected golf writer Alan Shipnuck
- Pair shared a text exchange after Shipnuck had a run in with security in London
- Norman texted ‘ thanks for letting me know’ – a photo proved he was at the scene
- Norman, 67, is the CEO of the Saudi backed LIV tour, who are taking on PGA tour
Greg Norman has been compared to US gangster Al Capone by a golf writer who was booted out from a press conference after asking hard questions about the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV golf tour.
In an extraordinary picture which has gone viral online, respected US journalist Alan Shipnuck tweeted an image of Norman lurking in the background watching on sternly as security forcibly removed him from the scene at London’s Centurion Club.
Shipnuck has covered golf globally for 25 years and was the journalist who first brought to light Phil Mickelson’s now infamous comments about the Saudi backers of the new breakaway LIV Golf tour being ‘scary motherf***ers’.
He later tweeted to his 80,000-plus followers about his heavy-handed experience, revealing a text exchange with Norman that shows the Australian lied by claiming he did not know about Shipnuck’s removal by security – only for Shipnuck to then share with him the embarrassing picture which shows Norman watching him being ejected.
‘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?),’ Shipnuck wrote on Twitter.
‘MBS’ refers to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Greg Norman (left) was left red-faced after pretending he wasn’t aware that journalist Alan Shipnuck had been removed from a press conference at Centurion Club by security – but a photo sent to the writer (above) shows otherwise
He then went on to share his texts with two-time Open champion Norman, saying ‘You cannot make this s*** up!’
‘I texted Greg Norman before someone sent me this video – I had no idea he was lurking behind me.’
When Shipnuck sent Norman proof that he’d been well aware he had been removed from the media opportunity, the man known as the ‘Great White Shark’ didn’t reply.
‘I have no ill will toward Phil,’ Shipnuck later told Golfweek. ‘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.
‘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.’
The incident came two days after another journalist was blocked from quizzing high-level American golfers about Saudi Arabian sportswashing at a press conference ahead of the opening event of the breakaway tour.
On Tuesday, players addressed the media and Rob Harris of the Associated Press used both press conferences as an opportunity to seek answers from players – including Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell – on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.
Following an opening round of media, led by former world No 1 Dustin Johnson in which he announced he had resigned from the PGA Tour, a second session was held with four American players: Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, James Piot and Sihwan Kim.
Details soon emerged that the press conference became heated and was ultimately cut short, preventing Harris from posing a question on sportswashing.
Norman has managed to convince Phil Mickelson (right) and Dustin Johnson (left) to defect to the LIV tour by offering eye-watering amounts of money
Norman is the CEO of the controversial LIV golf tour, which is Saudi-backed and competing directly with the PGA tour
Harris later tweeted: ‘One aspect of the first LIV Golf press conferences is that questions on Saudi Arabia and rights issues have been allowed to be posed to the golfers. And no media barred for doing so.’
In that first press conference, Harris zoned in on human rights transgressions in Saudi Arabia and put them directly to McDowell, a former US Open champion and European Ryder Cup hero.
‘And to the guys, particularly Graeme, you are now effectively working as an extension of Saudi PR,’ Harris’ question began.
‘You talked about how the series is a force for good and the journey you’ve been told about Saudi Arabia is on. How is that journey helping women oppressed in Saudi Arabia; the migrant groups, their rights violated; the LGBTQ individuals who are criminalized; the families of the 81 men who were executed in March and those being bombed in Yemen?’
In response, a guarded McDowell said: ‘I wish I had the ability to be able to have that conversation with you.
‘You know, I think as golfers, if we tried to cure geopolitical situations in every country in the world that we play golf in, we wouldn’t play a lot of golf.
‘It’s a really hard question to answer.
‘You know, we’re just here to focus on the golf and kind of what it does globally for the role models that these guys are and that we are, and yeah, that’s a really hard question to get into.’
Associated Press reporter Rob Harris explained that no problems occurred in the first press conference, only to be followed by reports that he was ‘blocked’ in the second media session
A press conference at the Saudi-backed new golf series was disrupted with one journalist prevented from asking a question about human rights in the Kingdom by series officials
The incident with Shipnuck is just the latest clash in what has already been a controversial start for the new Saudi-backed golf venture.
Within 30 minutes of the first golfers teeing off on Thursday at the Centurion Club, the PGA Tour announced that Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and 15 other PGA Tour members playing in the St Albans event had been suspended because of their defections to LIV.
Banned players include major winners Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
In response, LIV Golf said the ban was ‘vindictive and deepens the divide between the Tour and its members’.
Mickelson – who is being paid a reported $200million for defecting to the rogue tour, finished the first round of LIV’s opening event tied for seventh alongside Johnson and Sam Horsfield at 1-under par.
South African Schwartzel is the outright leader, leading the field at five under par.
DEREK LAWRENSON: The ugly business of the Saudi LIV Series will disfigure golf for YEARS to come… PGA chief Jay Monahan has come down hard, but it’s Greg Norman who is the ‘vindictive’ one
The gloves are well and truly off. Make no mistake, the unprecedented statement released by the PGA Tour, suspending indefinitely their 17 members competing in the LIV series event at St Albans, marks the opening salvo in a battle of wills for the very soul and the future of men’s professional golf.
Bear in mind that the PGA Tour are an organisation so secretive they had never previously revealed the name of anyone who had been suspended, whatever the transgression.
Now, in a document full of righteous fury, the rebels who have been banned are not only named but shamed by their actions.
‘They’ve decided to turn their backs on the PGA Tour by wilfully violating a regulation,’ fumed the commissioner, Jay Monahan.
Neither will there be any back-door route to making the odd appearance via a sponsor’s exemption. In a strident declaration to all PGA Tour members, Monahan said: ‘These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons.
‘They can’t demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners.’
The gloves are off between Jay Monahan’s (left) PGA Tour and Greg Norman’s (right) LIV Series
A bombshell letter from the PGA Tour announced that all defecting members to rebel Saudi Invitational series have been suspended, in a huge shake-up for golf’s biggest names
Monahan was expected to take a tough line once the LIV action got under way but few expected it to be this strong. It is clearly a reaction to the drip, drip effect of the last few days, as more players with personality such as Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler signalled their intent to join the rebels.
He is clearly hoping this will stem the tide but it is hard to argue against wave upon wave of dollars and an opponent with limitless wealth.
Monahan even asks the question on everyone’s lips: What’s next? Sadly, he provides no answer. But we can surely take it as read that the DP World Tour, their strategic alliance partner, will take a similarly tough line. They really have no choice.
So, it’s goodbye to tour life for the likes of 25-year-old Sam Horsfield and 49-year-old Richard Bland. The end of the Ryder Cup careers and any future captaincy prospects for the likes of Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.
There is only one way this will change and that is through the courts. Will the legal system side with the argument of the LIV rebels, that they are independent contractors and should be able to play where they like?
Or the PGA Tour, who cite their own regulations, written by their own members, stating they can’t play in conflicting events without the required releases?
You can be sure the Saudis will throw another few million dollars on to the fire to fuel any such litigation.
Where do the four majors, all run by separate organisations, stand in all this? You might well ask. Quite rightly, the eligible rebels will be able to play in the US Open next week and the 150th Open next month. The rules were written long before anyone stuck a tee peg in the ground at Centurion and those who met the criteria should be able to play.
But what happens next year? The four bodies might well be glad that it’s a long nine months before the Masters. Maybe the inevitable court case between the PGA Tour and LIV will have run its course by then, we will have an idea what the future looks like and they can write their rules accordingly.
Ian Poulter is among the European legends who could see their Ryder Cup careers ended
Sam Horsfield (left) and Richard Bland (right) could face suspension from the DP World Tour
For their part, LIV put out a statement of their own calling the PGA Tour’s actions ‘vindictive and troubling’, rather ironic from an organisation who appear motivated by both.
Would Greg Norman, the face of Saudi golf, be bothering with all this if he had won the odd American major or two and hadn’t been snubbed by the PGA Tour all those years ago, when he tried to start a global tour of his own?
Would the Saudis be exercising their financial muscles to quite this extent if the DP World Tour had sided with them rather than the PGA Tour when they came calling a couple of years ago?
What an ugly landscape it all leaves, one that is going to disfigure the sport for years to come. What must big business be thinking, all those blue-chip sponsors who love the game more than any other sport precisely because it’s usually above all hostility and controversy?
What about the average fan, peering in from the outside and seeing very wealthy participants consumed by the idea of getting still wealthier? Can you think of a bigger turn-off than that?
It was Paul McGinley in these pages a year ago who predicted golf was in for a rough ride and that it would soon be time to don tin hats. Clearly, and in no uncertain terms, that time has arrived.
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