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Charl Schwartzel celebrates as gulf power struggle deepens – Sports News, Firstpost

Play began on Thursday but was quickly overshadowed by a brutal statement from the US PGA Tour banning the rebellious golfers who had not been granted permission to play in the LIV tournament.

Charl Schwartzel celebrates as the gulf power struggle intensifies

First placed and winning South African golfer Charl Schwarzel reacts during a news conference. AFP

St Albans: Charl Schwartzel’s victory in the first event of the rebellious LIV golf series brought the curtain on one of the most dramatic weeks in the history of a sport now in deep turmoil.

The Breakaway Circuit, led by former world number one Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is now a real and present threat to golf’s established tours.

Among the stars of the inaugural tournament outside of London, which concluded on Saturday, were six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson and two-time Major champion Dustin Johnson.

But there were other big names in the 48-man field, including big winners Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen.

During the event at the Centurion Club in St Albans, organizers hailed the signings of 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and former Masters winner Patrick Reed.

Organizers have vowed to make golf “supercharge” by offering 54-hole no-cut tournaments, simultaneous “shotgun starts” and a team element.

Play began on Thursday but was quickly overshadowed by a brutal statement from the US PGA Tour banning the rebellious golfers who had not been granted permission to play in the LIV tournament.

Ten of the 17 listed had already canceled their membership.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the “same fate applies to all players” attending future LIV events, with Reed and Bryson DeChambeau set to be on the field in Oregon later this month.

Leading up to the opening event, there was uncertainty as to who would be on the field.

Norman himself had previously said the tournament doesn’t need the biggest names to be an instant success, arguing it could be a showcase for future stars.

But the Australian has managed to attract enough big names to make the sport’s powers that be sit up and take notice and he now has nine big winners on his books.

A number of high-profile players had previously pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour, including Johnson and DeChambeau, before making a U-turn.

Others remain faithful – at least for the time being.

Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, who currently plays in the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open, said Monahan simply enforced membership regulations and “did the right thing.”

– court battle? –
The dispute could lead to the courtroom if one of the players suspended from the PGA Tour files a legal challenge.

Norman’s big pitch is for a “free and open market” in golf and he has promised to support his players to the max, even saying LIV Golf would pay any fines.

Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter plans to appeal the PGA Tour ban, saying it makes “no sense” to limit player choices.

The DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, has yet to respond, but LIV players have been assured they can play at next week’s US Open.

Another unknown is the issuance of world ranking points, which are currently unavailable in LIV tournaments.

The points are crucial because they help players qualify for the four Majors, which are the sport’s marquee tournaments.

Aside from the bitter power struggle, two issues have dogged players at the St Albans event – allegations of greed and questions about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The money at stake is undeniably overwhelming.

There was a record $25 million in prize pool at Centurion Club, and this year’s eight tournaments have a total of $255 million on offer.

Mickelson didn’t dispel rumors that he would be paid a $200 million fee for the competition, while Johnson is reportedly getting $150 million.

Norman said last month he had secured an additional $2 billion to convert the original eight-event invitational series to a 14-event league by 2024.

Mickelson was uncomfortably grilled by reporters on the eve of the tournament over Saudi funding, but insisted he “does not condone human rights abuses,” adding that golf could be a force for good.

Amnesty International reiterated its call for players to speak out about “human rights abuses” in Saudi Arabia, rather than being “willing accomplices of Saudi sports laundering”.

The questions are unlikely to go away when LIV Golf heads to the United States, where the sport gears up for the next installment in gripping drama.

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