NORTH PLAINS, Oregon — You can say this for LIV Golf: The new Saudi-backed organization and its players sure know how to make headlines — and controversy.
The tour, which makes its U.S. debut Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge outside Portland, has quickly become publicized amid controversial media exchanges that question Saudi Arabia’s horrendous record on human rights and players who usually refuse this record. to acknowledge.
That continued on Tuesday afternoon, as Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez attended the second press conference of the day and became visibly annoyed by every non-golf question.
Asked about several local politicians who have objected to LIV being in Oregon given who is funding the tournament, Perez said, “I understand the topics you are trying to raise and they are terrible events. But I’m here to play golf.”
Perez did not clarify what he meant by “horrific events,” although it is likely that the 2018 death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate, would be included.
On more general concerns about LIV’s connection to Saudi Arabia, Koepka said people “can have their own opinion, we’ve heard it, everyone has it. Our only job is to play golf. We’re trying to grow the game.”
But Koepka and Perez weren’t interested in whether by joining Saudi Arabia they alienated fans and possibly hurt the game’s growth?
“We didn’t ask them (the fans),” Perez snapped. ‘We do not know. Go ask them.”
Koepka argued that more golf on TV and the Internet in general — whether people get it through TikTok, Instagram or Twitter — is ultimately good for the growth of the sport. And clearly, Reed said, the PGA Tour sees LIV as an organization that will do just that.
“When you see how miraculously the wallets skyrocketed again on the PGA Tour, it shows that they clearly believe that this is not only a real threat, but also a great tour, if they copy what we are doing,” said Reed. “I believe this is a tour that will last forever.”
Patrick Reed reacts to his shot on the sixth hole during a practice round of the US Open golf tournament at The Country Club. Mandatory credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
On topics related to golf, Koepka, Perez and Reed all expressed frustration with the PGA Tour for having had enough of what they said was a punishing, unrealistic schedule. They said the PGA Tour created division by not listening to players when they complained about a full schedule that prevented them from getting enough rest. Koepka said he would return to play three weeks after undergoing major knee surgery, even though doctors had advised him not to play for six months. What other option did he have?
“If you took a certain period of time because your body needed it, you are now behind,” said Reed, who won the 2018 Masters.
Perez, 46, said he has “been on the road longer than (latest LIV golfer) Matt Wolff has lived. The bottom line is I’m tired of being on the road. This (LIV) is like winning the lottery.”
All players who signed contracts with LIV have been suspended from PGA Tour events, although only a handful, including Reed, have canceled their membership.
“I’m not resigning,” Perez said. “I don’t think I did anything wrong.”
As for continued access to the majors, no one seems very concerned.
“Of course we don’t really know where all of them are,” Reed said. “As a former champion at Augusta and wearing a green jacket, I would think I could play there for the rest of my life. It’s ultimately up to them.”
Koepka added: “You play well everywhere, anywhere in the world, you’ll be fine. I’ve made my decision, I’m happy with it and whatever comes of it, I’ll live with it.”
From Saudi Arabia to Portland, discover the courses hosting the LIV Golf Invitational Series in 2022