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Canzano: Peter Jacobsen rips Saudi-backed golf series
Event currently scheduled for July in Oregon.
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — Peter Jacobsen blasted the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. The professional golfer and long-time television commentator called the controversial event a money grab and predicted the event may not even happen.
“I don’t think any of these events are going to happen,” he told me via telephone on Thursday. “I never did. I still don’t.”
Please let it be true.
The golf event is scheduled to come to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in early July. A handful of professional golfers requested waivers from the PGA Tour to participate in the event. The tour has not granted them. Meanwhile, staff and members at the course in North Plains remain uncomfortable with the event.
Escalante Golf, the company that owns Pumpkin Ridge, is based in Texas. It did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment. But there’s only one thing the corporate suits could say that could make this better — “It’s off.”
Jacobsen joined the chorus of those who are upset about this event on Thursday. He pointed to the dismal human rights record of the Saudi government and called the recent public comments of Greg Norman disappointing.
On Wednesday, during a news conference in London, Norman was asked about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged complicity in the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, an American citizen. Norman was hired as the CEO of the LIV series.
Said Norman: “Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”
LIV Golf issued a statement later in the day attempting to clarify Norman’s tone-deaf comments.
“The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was reprehensible. Everyone agrees on that, including Greg, as he has said as such previously on many occasions. Greg also knows that golf is a force for good around the world and can help make inroads toward positive change. That is why he is so excited about LIV and that was the point he was making.”
Good to know.
Now, will someone please make this mess go away?
Jacobsen said he cringed when he heard Norman’s comments.
“Are you kidding me? Those are some inflammatory statements that nobody can make and nobody should make,” Jacobsen said.
The seven-time winner on the PGA Tour also pointed out that Norman and fellow golfer Phil Mickelson haven’t helped themselves in this process. Said Jacobsen: “I just think you’ve got two of your biggest proponents, Greg and Phil, and all they’re doing is stepping in it. It’s all about money, it’s all about short-term cash.”
For our region, it’s an embarrassment.
We’ve got a wonderful summer of sports events in Oregon. Worlds of Sport is slated for June at the Oregon Convention Center. The World Track and Field Championships will happen in July in Eugene. Pro baseball and soccer will be played across the state all summer and the NBA Draft will bring one of the top picks to the Trail Blazers.
This LIV golf thing is a festering blister amid that bunch.
I spoke at length with Jacobsen, who was in Florida on Thursday.
I appreciated that he spoke out. Jacobsen said, “I want to go on record.” The golf world is cozy. There’s a lot of crossover among sponsors, agents, coaches and caddies. But Jacobsen pulled no punches and we need more of that from golf’s heavy hitters in front of this event.
“If they want to go, I wish them the best of luck — go,” Jacobsen said.
He added, “If you take a week off there’s somebody ready to take your place and knock you off the pedestal.”
Jacobsen is backing The PGA Tour. And why not? It’s been good to him and a lot of other golfers. It has a business model and sponsors to protect. Jacobsen also pointed out that the tour can be unforgiving because of intense competition.
“They have to deal with the ramifications and what happens with the PGA Tour,” he said. “Let’s not forget the PGA Tour is a membership organization. They have rules and regulations they have to deal with.”
I was pleased to hear a prominent figure in the golf world take a strong stand. Like Jacobsen, I remain skeptical that the events will happen as scheduled on American soil. Meanwhile, the LIV is plowing ahead, in a standoff with the PGA Tour.
I feel for the staff members at Pumpkin Ridge. I’ve talked with members and they’re upset, too. The event shouldn’t happen. Jacobsen is right. It’s nothing more than a money grab.
At what cost though?
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