Jack Nicklaus Had 'Zero Interest' in Saudi-Backed Golf League, Met as a Courtesy

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2022

THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS - APRIL 30: Jack Nicklaus of the United States competes on the 10th hole during the Greats of Golf competition at the Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands Golf Club on April 30, 2022 in The Woodlands, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Logan Riely/Getty Images

Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus told reporters Tuesday that he met with the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series as a mere "courtesy" since his company, Nicklaus Design, is "doing a golf course" for the Saudis.

"I've got zero interest in wanting to do something like that," he added. "I don't care what kind of money they would have thrown at me. My allegiance has been to the PGA Tour. I grew up on the PGA Tour. I helped found the PGA Tour as it is today. My allegiance is there and it's going to stay there."

Earlier in May, Nicklaus told the Fire Pit Collective the Saudis made him a huge offer to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

"I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that [LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman] is doing," he 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.'"

In 1968, players like Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and others broke apart from the PGA of America and started the PGA Tour, seeking better player treatment and more money.

There are some parallels to players like Phil Mickelson considering LIV Golf. The difference, of course, is Saudi Arabia's history of human-rights violations and sportswashing endeavors.

Even Mickelson acknowledged as much in November while speaking to Alan Shipnuck for his book Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf's Most Colorful Superstar (h/t the Fire Pit Collective):

"They're scary motherf--kers to get involved with. We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They've been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won't do what's right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I'm not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour."

That hasn't stopped players like Robert Garrigus, Lee Westwood and Richard Bland from joining LIV Golf, or others like Sergio Garcia, Jason Kokrak, and Adam Scott from expressing interest in the breakaway league.

Monahan already announced earlier in May that PGA Tour players would not be granted a waiver to participate in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event in June, amid previous threats that any defecting players would be stripped of their PGA Tour membership.

It remains to be seen how many players cross that line. Nicklaus, at least, won't be joining them.