Greg Norman has come under fire in recent weeks over his Saudi-funded golf league that is set to rival the PGA Tour.
But on Monday, it was revealed that Saudi Arabian organizers made a strong push to make Jack Nicklaus, not Norman, the face of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Nicklaus, an 18-time major winner, was offered a huge amount of money to join the rival league, but the golfer ended up turning it down, he said in a story published Monday by the Fire Pit Collective.
“I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg [Norman] is doing,” Nicklaus said. “I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, ‘Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour.’”
Nicklaus won 73 times on Tour trailing only Tiger Woods and Sam Snead on the all-time victories list. The golfer hosts the PGA Tour each year during the Memorial Tournament, which was founded by Nicklaus and takes place at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
The first LIV Golf Invitational is set for June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club outside London.
PHIL MICKELSON WITHDRAWS FROM PGA CHAMPIONSHIP AMID CONTROVERSY
Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Investments, funded primarily by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The league’s first tournament will have a 48-man field competing for a $20 million purse over 52 holes. The winner gets $4 million and last place gets $120,000.
However, five of LIV Golf’s tournaments are scheduled for the U.S., a direct challenge to the PGA Tour because its regulations do not allow for any releases for tournaments held in North America.
Last week, the PGA Tour denied releases for golfers looking to compete in the rival Saudi-backed league.
Nicklaus offered advice to Phil Mickelson, who received backlash and has remained out of the public eye after he criticized the PGA Tour and backed the proposed golf league.
“My advice to Phil? My advice to Phil would be to be patient,” Nicklaus said. “The world is a very forgiving place. But he’s the one he has to decide where he wants to play and what he wants to do.”
Mickelson described the Saudis as “scary” but noted he could look past their history of human rights abuses if it meant a chance to change the PGA Tour.
Mickelson recently withdrew from the PGA Championship even though the PGA welcomed his participation. He is the third PGA champion to not defend their title in the last 75 years.