Saudis’ golf fray to start at St Albans with jaw-dropping prize fund up for grabs


Saudis plant a flag in London! Stunning foray into golf will start in St Albans in June with jaw-dropping cash prizes up for grabs for 48 players in a mega-bucks series – with over £19m awaiting the winner of each event

  • The Saudis will begin their mega-bucks foray into golf near London in June 
  • A jaw-dropping prize fund will be twice the amount at the 15th Open this year 
  • The Centurion Club will play host to an event, with six more following worldwide 
  • An eighth event will be a team competition, with another £38million to be won 

The Saudis will make a stunning foray into golf with a series of eight tournaments beginning near London in June. The jaw-dropping opener will offer a prize fund for 48 players that will be twice the amount available at the 150th Open at St Andrews in July.

The richest tournament by far to be staged in these isles will take place at the Centurion Club in St Albans and be followed by six more worldwide, each at the same astronomical prize fund level of more than £19million. The eighth event will be a team competition, with another £38m to be won.

What a way to end all the months of speculation and hype. By way of comparison, last year’s Open at Royal St George’s was worth nearly £9m. 

The Saudis will make a stunning foray into golf with a series of eight tournaments beginning near London in June (pictured: potential starters Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter)

What is the LIV Series?

The breakaway circuit will launch in London in June, at the Centurion Club near St Albans. 

It will tee off on June 9, one week before the US Open, with a £19m purse for a 48-man field.

Seven more events will follow run by LIV Golf, going to the US (four events) Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

Those seven will each be worth £19m. A £23m prize for the top three players of the first seven events will be available.

The eighth event will be a team championship with a £38m prize — location TBC.

Each event will be richer than the four majors.

The Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series was announced in a press release that truly did qualify as gob-smacking, the aggregate sum for the eight tournaments listed as £194m, with £23m distributed to the top three following the last of the seven strokeplay events in Jeddah. The total commitment for the series will be £305m.

So now we know why the DP World Tour acted with unseemly haste to announce Henrik Stenson as the next Ryder Cup captain on Tuesday. Imagine having to compete with this staggering development, not to mention the list of players earmarked as future skippers likely to find this easy money far too lucrative to turn down.

The PGA Tour will be content they have the backing of the best young players, after the top 20 made their feelings known. But what about fortysomethings Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey, all linked with the Saudis for some considerable time? All could expect signing-on bonuses of £20m — and that is before playing for the enormous riches mentioned.

All have been threatened with lifetime bans from the PGA Tour should they commit to the Saudis, and the DP World Tour are adamant they can also wave goodbye to any future captaincy.

Greg Norman, the face of the Saudi golf operation, is insistent players will be able to compete where they want, but that is not going to happen. He must have commitments from 48 players to launch the series, even if some are not exactly household names.

Paul Casey (pictured) has also been linked with the Saudis, with a big signing on bonus in store

Paul Casey (pictured) has also been linked with the Saudis, with a big signing on bonus in store

On Monday, Norman acknowledged this in a placatory email to the 250 players who had been approached over the past 12 months, including all those who had turned him down.

‘We consider ourselves a start-up and we may start with a modest number of players,’ Norman began. ‘But we won’t stay that way for long. I understand why some players may choose not to play with us right away but after we get going I believe many of those who aren’t with us now will be with us later. We will continue to drive this mission forward. We believe in it, and we will not stop.’

After London, the series will visit Boston, Chicago, Portland and New Jersey, as well as an event in Bangkok before concluding in Jeddah. Each event will be 54 holes and television details have yet to be confirmed.

Norman said they had picked their dates with respect to the majors and other ‘heritage events’. Although there are no direct clashes with established top-tier events, it is clear the game is in for a turbulent summer.

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