NORTHERN PLAINS, ores. – The first LIV Golf event in the US was scheduled to begin on Thursday when a group of survivors and families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks planned to gather in a nearby park to oppose a tour funded by Saudi Arabia.
Brett Eagleson was 15 years old when he lost his father in the collapse of the World Trade Center. On this day in 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed.
“We want golfers to know who they’re going to bed with, who they’re doing business with,” Eagleson said. “Any golfer who chooses to participate in the LIV tournament should listen to family members and look us in the eye, and explain to us why they are taking Saudi money and why they are playing in this tournament. And we want to be able to inform golfers because we know about the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11. ”
Eagleson, now 36, is one of those who criticizes the LIV tournament and its connection to a regime that violates human rights. All but four of the 19 abductors on Sept. 11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and the mastermind of the attack.
The LIV Golf Invitational begins Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.
Eagleson is particularly upset by Phil Mickelson, one of the heroes of this childhood, and his decision to join LIV Golf. The tour, led by Greg Norman and funded by the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia, offered subscription bonuses – some reportedly in excess of $ 100 million – which some players found insurmountable.
“Now to see him bow to the Saudis and say he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care about the struggle, the pain and the suffering. Three thousand Americans killed. Does he care because he was offered a salary? It’s just the worst form of greed, ”Eagleson said.
In addition to Mickelson, LIV Golf was also joined by winning friends Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambo. Mickelson did not speak to reporters before the tournament in Oregon.
As far as the touring upstart undoubtedly wants to avoid criticism, she can’t avoid it. At press conferences before the tournament, golfers were asked about ties with Saudi Arabia and gave similar, kind answers to questions on the topic, repeating options for the message that golf can be a “force of good.”
But long before LIV Golf arrived in the tiny Northern Plains, the mayor and residents of surrounding towns wrote to the club owner from Texas to protest the event, saying it was not in line with community values. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden called the event a “sports wash” to divert attention from human rights abuses.
The stop in Portland is the second of eight LIV Golf events this year. Families of 9/11 victims and survivors also spoke out against the inauguration event near London earlier this month.
Kapka, who recently joined LIV Golf after initially condemning it, downplayed concerns about Saudi Arabia’s funding.
“They are allowed to express their opinion. You know, we heard that. I think everyone has. It is brought up, ”said Kapka, a former world number one and four-time champion in bullets. “But look, as we said, our only job is to play golf, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We are trying to develop the game. “
Part of the appeal of LIV Golf is money. In addition to the subscription bonuses, a field of 48 people will compete for a $ 20 million wallet, with an additional prize pool of $ 5 million for team competitions. Charles Schwarzel won the competition in London (and the team part) and earned $ 4.75 million.
LIV tournaments are held on 54 holes without a cut, and even the last place winner gets $ 120,000. The organizers promise interesting events that, in their opinion, will attract new fans.
The PGA Tour responded to the LIV Golf challenge by suspending all active participants who participated in the first LIV event. Those who play in Oregon will also be rejected if they do not opt out of the tour.
The John Deere Classic PGA Tour is taking place in Illinois this week.
Former Masters champion Fred Parr heads the American team of athletes participating in the Liberty National show in New Jersey, which begins Thursday. The couple, who are part of the Hall of Fame, openly spoke out against LIV Golf and said they hope its event will attract more spectators.
“I find it so weird that the only way to get these guys to leave the tour is to throw them money. There is no other reason. Everything else is BS, “said Paris.” It doesn’t improve the game. They play 8 to 10 tournaments here. How does it improve the game? “
AP sports writer Tom Canavan of New Jersey contributed to this report.
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