9/11 Families Express Outrage at US Players in Saudi League

LIV's first tournament title pays $4M to Charl Schwartzel
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2022 3:40 PM CDT
9/11 Families Express Outrage at US Players in Saudi League
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman watches play Saturday at the Centurion Club in St. Albans, England.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The new golf league backed by Saudi Arabia crowned its first champion Saturday in the richest tournament in the sport's history, even as outrage about Americans' participation deepened. The organization that represents families and survivors of the 2001 terrorist attacks objected to the US players signing up for the league, calling it a betrayal and an effort to help the kingdom avoid responsibility for 9/11, Yahoo News reports. Developments include:

Criticism of players: The head of 9/11 Families United wrote to the agents of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, and Kevin Na about their participation. Saying "you have sold us out," the letter said: "You are all Americans, keenly aware of the death and destruction of September 11. This is a betrayal not only of us, but of all your countrymen." The letter dismissed the players' defenses that it's just a game and that "the evils of the Saudi regime" are just "human rights concerns."
Record money: LIV Golf's first event paid its winner $4 million on Saturday. Charl Schwartzel added $750,000 when his Stinger team finished atop the team rankings, per the AP. He made more money in the three-day tournament than he made in the last four years on the PGA Tour combined. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think we could play for that much money in golf," said Schwartzel, who won the Masters in 2001.
Additions: Patrick Reed, who also won a Masters, made his jump to LIV official on Saturday. So did fellow American Pat Perez, who said on the LIV broadcast that he wants to travel less but didn't mention the unprecedented LIV money. Twenty players have now left the PGA Tour for the new league; the 17 who played in this week's tournament were suspended as soon as play began Thursday. "I'm super excited," said Reed, who ranks 36th in the world. "Just the thought of being able to be part of an evolution and a change in golf for the better is unbelievable."
Commentary: In a Washington Post column, Sally Jenkins tears apart the argument—which the 9/11 families also found "pathetic"—by Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, and others that they're going to "make the world a better place with Saudi-blood-money golf purses." After the league's first round ever, she writes, golfers cringed at questions until Ari Fleischer called an end to it, and security removed a reporter who raised an awkward issue to Mickelson. Norman, the boss of the tour, later told the reporter he didn't realize that had happened, though video shows him standing next to Alan Shipnuck at the time. Jenkins manages expectations by looking at other ways golf has been "a force for good." You can read the full piece here. (Read more LIV Golf Invitational Series stories.)

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