Greg Norman, the legendary pro golfer and CEO of the Saudi-backed PGA rival startup tournament series LIV Golf, on Wednesday brushed off questions about the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist and U.S. citizen Jamal Khashoggi, likening his murder to some kind of “mistake.”
“From what I heard and what you guys reported … just take ownership of what it is,” he told reporters at a press conference ahead of LIV Golf’s inaugural tournament next month near London, according to Golf Digest. “Take ownership no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”
Pressed on whether he thought Khashoggi’s killing was some kind of “mistake,” he said: “I’m not going down this road, guys. Let’s just stay focused on the golf. That’s all I’m going to do.”
LIV Golf is funded by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, backed by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman — whom U.S. intelligence found had approved the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Saudi critic Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
But Norman continued to face tough questions about his upstart tournament’s Saudi connections. A reporter later asked whether he’d heard about the execution of 81 people in a single day at the hands of the Saudi government.
“I got a lot of messages, but quite honestly I look forward, I don’t look back,” he replied. “I don’t look into the politics of things. I know the mission I have as CEO of LIV Golf and that’s how we can grow the game globally. I’m not going to get into the quagmire of whatever happens in someone else’s world. I heard about it and I just kept moving on.”
The Q&A did indeed move on, to the topic of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. “I’m not sure whether I even have any gay friends, to be honest with you,” he said.
Norman faces challenge on the golf front too since PGA leaders this week warned its players that they will not get scheduling-conflict exemptions to compete in LIV Golf events and could face expulsion if they defect to the new venture.