Australian golfing legend Greg Norman is alleged to have denied knowledge of a leading golf reporter being “physically removed” from a Phil Mickelson press conference at the inaugural LIV Golf tournament, despite evidence he was watching it unfold.
US golf writer Alan Shipnuck, who wrote a biography of Mickelson and reported comments earlier this year in which the star golfer said the Saudi regime were “scary motherf—ers”, was at Centurion Club just outside London for the start of Norman’s breakaway league.
The series is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and has showered some of golf’s biggest names with eye-popping sign-on fees to quit the traditional PGA Tour in the United States and the DP World Tour based in Europe.
Mickelson was reportedly paid more than $200 million just to play the Norman-led league, and was holding a press conference after his one-under 69 in the first round on Friday morning (AEST).
Shipnuck uploaded footage of security guards refusing to allow him access to Mickelson’s press conference and subsequently posted a screenshot on Twitter of what he claimed was a text exchange with Norman. The screenshot appears to show Norman responding that he didn’t hear about Shipnuck being denied entry, but footage later emerged of the Australian standing behind him as it unfolded. The exchange went viral and made headlines around the world.
Mickelson, the oldest major winner in men’s golf history, took a four-month hiatus from professional golf after his comments came to light, skipping The Masters at Augusta National and not defending his USPGA title.
Shipnuck tweeted: “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.”
Mickelson’s inclusion in the LIV Golf series was only confirmed this week after his comments about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record were condemned earlier this year.
“We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” Mickelson said. “They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson has since apologised for the comments, and argued they were “off the record”. Shipnuck has denied Mickelson’s claim.
Six Australians are playing in the inaugural 54-hole event featuring a shotgun start, with world No.265 Wade Ormsby the best with a first-round 71.
The PGA Tour sent an email to players saying those who had competed in the first LIV Golf event would be banned from their tour, including Mickelson and two-time Australian Open winner Matt Jones.
Former world No.1 Dustin Johnson and Masters winner Sergio Garcia have already resigned from the PGA Tour.
All LIV Golf entrants who have qualified for next week’s US Open will be allowed to play, according to the US Golf Association.
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