In the latest nod towards the schism within golf caused by the breakaway LIV tour, neither Phil Mickelson nor Greg Norman will feature in the past champion events before the 150th Open Championship. While Mickelson will miss the Celebration of Champions four-hole challenge on Monday and the following evening’s champions’ dinner of his own volition, Norman was informed by the R&A that he would not be welcome at either.
Norman, the figurehead of the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Series, won the Open in 1986 and 1993 but has now found himself in conflict with golf’s existing ecosystem. In a statement, the R&A confirmed it felt having Norman at St Andrews would be an unwelcome distraction.
“In response to enquiries regarding the R&A Celebration of Champions field and the champions’ dinner, we can confirm that we contacted Greg Norman to advise him that we decided not to invite him to attend on this occasion,” it said.
“The 150th Open is an extremely important milestone for golf and we want to ensure that the focus remains on celebrating the championship and its heritage. Unfortunately, we do not believe that would be the case if Greg were to attend. We hope that when circumstances allow Greg will be able to attend again in future.”
Mickelson, who is in this Open field, informed the R&A he did not wish to attend either event. Tensions could have been high at the dinner with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who have been firm in their opposition to the LIV project, among the guests. Mickelson is suspended from the PGA Tour and has lost multiple sponsors because of his involvement in LIV competitions and the sentiment regarding human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
Norman has made his disquiet over the situation clear. “I’m disappointed,” he told Australian Golf Digest. “I would have thought the R&A would have stayed above it all given their position in world golf. It’s petty, as all I have done is prompt and grow the game of golf globally, on and off the golf course, for more than four decades.”