Australian PGA tour winner Jed Morgan appears likely to be the first Australian to compete in Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed rebel golf league.
The series, which has total prizemoney of US$140 million ($193 million) with last-place earning $US120,000 ($165,000) per tournament, has offered the top two finishers on the PGA Tour of Australasia the chance to play on Norman’s tour-opening event.
The season-ending Northern Territory PGA Championship, which offers just $27,000 in prizemoney for the winner, will have massive ramifications given the scramble to potentially earn a spot in the first event on Norman’s lucrative start-up. The NT PGA Championships began at Palmerston Golf and Country Club on Thursday.
Australian PGA champion Morgan, 22, is likely to be unveiled as one of a small field for Norman’s inaugural 54-hole tournament at Centurion Club, just outside London, next month as uncertainty still surrounds whether Adam Scott will play in the event.
Morgan has no current affiliation with either the US PGA Tour or Europe’s DP World Tour, which have threatened sanctions against members who join the Norman-led revolution.
The world No. 228 shot to prominence with a runaway 11-stroke win in last year’s Australian PGA at Royal Queensland, breaking a record previously shared by Norman and Hale Irwin for the tournament’s biggest winning margin (eight shots).
It was enough to crown him the order of merit winner on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
His likely place at Centurion emerged on the same day Morgan was formally announced as having secured his first major spots in both the US Open, which will be played a week after LIV Golf’s first International Series event, and The Open at St Andrews. This year will be the 150th edition of The Open.
Morgan, who has been a professional for less than a year, will also be play three DP World Tour events later this year.
Obviously as a young player I’m heading away to follow my dreams and I’m focused on what is ahead of me, but to win an order of merit is something special, I know, and the opportunities that it provides for me are priceless, Morgan said on Thursday.
Fifteen of the world’s top 100 golfers have reportedly expressed interest in playing on the Norman-led tour, which will offer an eye-watering US$20 million purse for each of the seven individual events. Last place in each will still pocket US$120,000.
It makes the scramble to finish second behind Morgan on the Australasian Tour order of merit intriguing, with Blake Windred ($125,285), Andrew Dodt ($111,230) and Dimi Papadatos ($110,261) all still in the running.
Australia’s only Masters winner Scott has still not confirmed whether he has sought a release to play at Centurion, despite earlier this year saying Norman’s tour schedule was appealing to him.
Scott’s schedule on his website lists he will play in the Memorial Tournament and US Open, the two events to be played either side of the LIV Golf season opener at Centurion between June 9-11.
Phil Mickelson will potentially be the highest profile recruit for Norman after Mickelson’s manager confirmed he had sought a release from the US PGA Tour to play at Centurion. He hasn’t announced a final decision on whether he will join Norman’s rebel league, which is aligned with the Asian Tour.
Mickelson has taken a break from competitive golf and didn’t play the Masters at Augusta National after being condemned for comments on the league, describing the Saudis as scary motherf—–s to get involved with in a biography by golf writer Alan Shipnuck.
Mickelson was also reported as claiming his involvement with Norman’s tour was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the [US] PGA Tour operates.
Former world No. 1 Lee Westwood, 49, said he has sought an exemption from the main tours in the United States and Europe to play in the first LIV Golf event.
This is my job, Westwood said before the British Masters. I do this for money. It’s not the only reason for doing it. But if anybody comes along and gives any of us a chance at a pay rise, then you have to seriously consider it, don’t you?
I work for myself, it’s my job and I have to do what’s right for me.
Norman’s LIV Golf Invitational is being bankrolled by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the financial arm of the government.
The same fund controversially bought an 80 per cent stake in Premier League club Newcastle United last year in the midst of a relegation battle, an act decried as sports washing given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
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