During a public relations trip to Washington to sell lawmakers on the benefits of the PGA Tour’s new rival, Norman was asked at a Republican Study Committee meeting about the league’s Saudi funding.
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – the sovereign wealth fund headed by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – and has pledged a total of $250 million in prizes.
Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, suggested he had no words with Norman, telling the Republican the purpose of his visit was “competition” — a statement Roy said he thought was “nonsense.” He was happy to sit down and talk with Norman about it.
“Don’t sell it, it’s just about competition,” Roy told CNN, adding that he made $1 billion in PR to the Saudi Arabian government when they didn’t respond to $1 billion in purchases from PGA players. Registration of foreign agents may violate the law.
Rep. Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told CNN that the discussion was “a lively discussion” and that Norman was generally “well received by our members.”
Indiana Republican Norman asked to meet with the group that holds regular meetings with foreign guests.
“Some members talked about Saudi-backed funding, that came up in the discussion, and Mr. Norman raised those issues,” Banks said. “They explained how the investment fund was set up and other investments they made in the United States. They promised to sit down with members privately.”
Banks said there was no request to act on behalf of the League at the Norman Congress, and that the purpose of the meeting was more “public relations.”
“If Tiger Woods wants to come and talk about his PGA and LIV Golf issues, we’d love to have him come,” Banks added.
LIV golfers are not allowed to play this week in the Presidents Cup, a biennial tournament that pits the International Team against the U.S. Team against each other, on Thursday.
“I would say it’s very disturbing,” Immelman told CNN Sports reporter Don Riddell. “It was definitely an interesting process.”
But opposing captain Davis Love III said the team lacked some “fantastic players” and arguably has more depth than Immelman.
The international team has a poor record in the President’s Cup competition, winning only once in 13 editions.
“In the last year or so, when these rifts (between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour) started happening, every player on our team knew exactly what the rules were and knew what decisions they had to make to have this opportunity to play in the Presidents Cup,” he added.
Asked if he would miss friends like Smith, Niemann and Oosthuizen, Immelmann said: “Those guys are amazing players. They are players who have played in the President’s Cup. They have the experience of being in that bowl, understanding what it takes. But you know, like I said, they knew the decisions they had to make to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
“All this information was part of their decision-making process. So the communication was very open. Everyone knew exactly where they stood and they made the decision that they thought was right for them, and I respect their decision.”
This year’s Presidents Cup is being held at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina and will conclude on Sunday.
CNN’s Don Riddell and Jack Bantock report.