Saudi-backed LIV Golf would be banned from New Jersey under State Senate Bill

Phil Mickelson during day two of the LIV Golf Invitational - Bedminster. (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / LIV Golf / Getty Images North America)

LIV Golf, the new megapurse professional circuit backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, would be banned from New Jersey clubs under a bill introduced by two Democratic state legislators. 

The legislation, sponsored by Senators Andrew Zwicker and Richard Codey, would prohibit contests by all sports organisations “operated primarily through use of [money] received from sovereign wealth funds”, according to a news release.

An LIV tournament at Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf club on July 29-31 drew protests from survivors and families of 9/11 victims who condemned the event. The winner, Henrik Stenson, was paid $4-million.

The senators cited Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and dissidents, alleged ties to the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the September 11 2001 terror attacks involving 15 Saudi citizens among the 19 plane hijackers. In all, 750 New Jersey residents were killed that day.

“No one would have believed that, after that terrible day, we would be allowing foreign governments to hold events in New Jersey in an attempt to clean up their image after centuries of human rights abuses and connections to terrorists,” Codey said in a statement.

LIV Golf didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment emailed to its media staff. On its website, LIV says its goal is “to modernise and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike”. It identifies the Saudi sovereign fund as the primary shareholder in LIV Golf Investments.

Oil money

Play is limited to 48 golfers on 12 teams with no cuts, making for shorter contests. LIV, in Roman numerals, represents 54, or the number of holes played in three rounds.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. Fed by oil profits, it has a goal to more than double its $620-billion in assets by 2025.

In June, the PGA Tour suspended 17 players, including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, from participating in its tournaments because of their affiliation with LIV. Greg Norman, the winner of 20 PGA Tour titles, is LIV’s chief executive officer.

In a June 9 letter to PGA Tour members, PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan wrote that the suspended players lacked the media and event releases necessary to play in other events. “These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,” Monahan wrote.

Several of New Jersey’s privately owned golf clubs have been selected for PGA events.

“Yet we do not need further recognition or notoriety from hosting competitions that are bankrolled by repressive governments or unsavoury actors like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Zwicker said in a statement.

LIV has upcoming tournaments in Boston, Chicago, Bangkok and Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia.


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