How Saudi-backed mega-millions tournament at Trump’s Bedminster has torn golf apart

What is the LIV Golf Series? How Saudi-backed mega-millions tournament at Trump’s Bedminster has torn golf apart and sparked outrage amongst 9/11 families and supporters of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi

  • LIV Golf will host its event this week at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster 
  • US intelligence services have accused the Saudi Arabian government of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
  • The FBI claims that Saudi officials were involved in supporting the hijackers of 9/11 
  • The contest is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and with lucrative deals the series has attracted some of the biggest stars

It’s torn golf apart and sparked outrage among bereaved 9/11 families – so what is the Saudi-backed LIV Series Trump is hosting at his Bedminster course today.

Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, is hosting the third event for LIV Golf this year, with the ex-president promoting the event in interviews.

The former-president controversially agreed to host the event at his club after being dumped by the PGA in 2016 and again in 2021 after the Capitol riot. 

We take a look into why the newest golf competition is causing controversy in golf and creating political tensions: 

Where are the competitions being played?

The first of the eight-tournament series started off at the Centurion Club in London earlier this year.

Before heading to Bedminster this weekend, players headed to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland earlier this month.

Players will then head to the International in Boston, Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago and Trump Doral – with five of the eight being hosted in the US.

Other hosts include Stonehill Golf Club in Bangkok and Royal Greens Golf Club in Jeddah.

Ten tournaments are planned for 2023 and 14 are planned for 2024 and 2025. 

How did the contest get set up?

LIV golf announced that they would be launching their own global professional tour, to rival the PGA, in 2019. 

Former World No. 1 Greg Norman was named as the CEO of LIV Golf in October last year, with legend Jack Nicklaus saying he rebuked an offer of over $100 million to do the job. 

In February 2022, LIV Golf announced a $400 million, 10-year investment in the Asian Tour at the Saudi International.

Ex-professional and face of the series Greg Norman is the CEO of the new series, which has been injected with millions of dollars from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia

Ex-professional and face of the series Greg Norman is the CEO of the new series, which has been injected with millions of dollars from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia

Who is funding the LIV contest?

The professional tour is currently backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia.

The PIF, a financial arm of the Saudi Arabian Government, has piled millions into the new competition and has reportedly doles out between $90million and $200million to golf stars.

What is the format for LIV Golf tournaments?

It will consist of three 18-hole roads taking place over three days, with a traditional stroke play format with a shotgun start.

Individual winners will be crowned, but the 48-man field will be divided into 12 teams of four and the captains will pic three players in a snake draft before each event.

During the first two rounds of a tournament the team’s two best scores count, for the final round the three best scores count and the team with the lowest combined score at the end will win the team portion of the tournament.

 Why is Trump hosting two of the contests?

The PGA announced back in 2014 that the 2022 PGA Championship would be hosted at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

It represented the first time one of his courses had been picked to host a major golf tournament, but he was then dumped by the PGA in 2016 and again in 2021 after the Capitol riot. 

Trump controversially agreed to host the LIV after the decision, and has since been encouraging golfers to sign up to the event.

He told them to ‘take the money now’ and claiming that if they don’t, they will miss out on a payday when the LIV series and the PGA ‘inevitably’ merge. 

LIV golf announced their new competition last year, with two of the tournaments taking place at former President Donald Trump's courses. He has been accused of 'dishonoring America' by hosting the events. Pictured with Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud at the G20 Summit in 2019

LIV golf announced their new competition last year, with two of the tournaments taking place at former President Donald Trump’s courses. He has been accused of ‘dishonoring America’ by hosting the events. Pictured with Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud at the G20 Summit in 2019

How is the murder of Jamal Khashoggi linked to the contest?

LIV is being funded by the PIF, which is the financial arm of the Saudi Arabian government who have been linked to several human rights atoricities.

US intelligence agencies have accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud in a declassified CIA report of approving the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who penned columns critical of Saudi leadership.

The crown prince has always denied that he had anything to do with the gruesome murder which took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi at the time of his murder, told USA Today Sports that the players who participate in the LIV Golf Invitational Series should be barred from competing in majors.

Why has the contest sparked outrage with 9/11 survivors and families?

Although the Saudi government has not been directly linked to the 9/11 attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

FBI documents released last year claim that at least ‘a dozen’ high up officials in the government were involved in supporting the hijackers.

The mastermind, Osama bin Laden, behind the attacks was from a prominent Saudi family before setting up training camps in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month the National Chair of the 9/11 Families United called for President Biden to ‘hold the Kingdom accountable’ for the ‘murder’ of their loved ones when he visited the country.

Although the Saudi government has not been directly linked to the 9/11 attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. American golfer Dustin Johnson, pictured, is one of many players who have been criticized for joining the LIV

Although the Saudi government has not been directly linked to the 9/11 attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. American golfer Dustin Johnson, pictured, is one of many players who have been criticized for joining the LIV

How much prize money is being offered?

At the first seven events there will be $20 million for individual prizes and another $5 million for the team competition.

The eighth event will offer $30 million for the top three players of the season, with another $50 million for teams in total prize funds.

Which players have joined LIV golf and what are their contracts?

Charles Howell III, Jason Kokrak and Paul Casey will all be taking part at the contest this weekend, with Casey telling reporters that he has ‘seen change’ in the Saudi kingdom.

Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, departed the PGA Tour to compete in LIV Golf.

Johnson reportedly received a contract worth $125million to join, while Mickelson was handed $200millon.

This is a huge jump from both of their salaries in the PGA Tour, which are $94.96 for Mickelson and $74.3million for Johnsons.

Veteran broadcaster David Feherty has also joining the team to help get their on-air team up and running – with more additions potentially coming in the near weeks.

CRO Norman said LIV Golf made a high-nine-figure offer to Tiger Woods, but the 15-time major champion turned it down.

The top American players who have defected to the Saudi-backed series have faced intense criticism from 9/11 groups for their involvement in the series. Pictured: Donald Trump with Bryson DeChambeau on the practice range at the LIV Golf Invitational on Thursday

The top American players who have defected to the Saudi-backed series have faced intense criticism from 9/11 groups for their involvement in the series. Pictured: Donald Trump with Bryson DeChambeau on the practice range at the LIV Golf Invitational on Thursday

Can LIV Golf players also play in majors? 

Earlier this year the PGA moved to ban players who participate in LIV events and this month the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the PGA for anticompetitive behavior.

The DP World Tour also did not grant releases for any of its members to play in the LIV Golf International.

At least six golfers have already resigned their PGA Tour memberships, but those like Mickelson who said he doesn’t plan to give it up, is looking at a suspension.

The decision of whether or not LIV golfers can compete will be up to the governing bodies that oversee each respective major.

The United States Golf Association, which runs this month’s U.S. Open, has already ruled that LIV golfers who have qualified, which includes Mickelson and Johnson, will be allowed to play at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Which golf stars have spoken out against LIV?

Golfing legend Rory McIlroy initially said that there was ‘no room’ in the golf world for LIV Golf, but he previously said that there needs to be talks between the two.

Speaking to CBS Sports the four-time major champion said: ‘I don’t agree with what LIV is doing. If LIV went away tomorrow I’d be super happy.’

Billy Horschel spoke against the competition ahead of the Scottish Open earlier this year, branding his fellow pros as ‘ hypocrites’.

He said: ‘I’ve been really frustrated by it because there’s a lot of guys that are hypocrites, that aren’t telling the truth, that are lying about some things.

‘I don’t fault anyone for going to play the LIV tour. I don’t have any ill will for anyone going to play the LIV tour.

‘I have ill will toward comments that they’ve made, comments saying that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan doesn’t listen, the PGA Tour doesn’t listen to us.

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