First LIV Golf event ends amid backlash from 9/11 group

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ST. ALBANS, England — Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel banked $4.75 million on Saturday winning the richest tournament in golf’s history, as Saudi backers of the event faced a new reaction after a group of victims of September 11 called on American players to withdraw from the rebel series.

Schwartzel held on for a one-shot victory at LIV Golf’s inaugural event outside London to claim the $4 million prize for the individual victory – plus an additional $750,000 from his share of the $3 million purse won by his four-man Stinger team for the lead in the team standings.

Schwartzel, the winner of the Augusta National in 2011, reaped more prize money winning the three-day, 54-hole event than he had in the past four years combined. It came at a cost, however, having resigned from his PGA Tour membership to play on the unauthorized series without a waiver.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we could play golf for so much money,” said Schwartzel, who hadn’t won a PGA or DP World Tour event since 2016.

Fellow South African Hennie Du Plessis, who was selected for Stinger by team captain Louis Oosthuizen in the draft, earned $2.875 million finishing second at the Centurion Club, located between Hemel Hempstead and St. Albans.

Schwartzel entered the final day with a three-shot lead and did just enough to hold off Du Plessis despite finishing 2 of 72 for a 7-under total of 203.

This is the first of eight events in LIV Golf’s first year, which began as the PGA Tour banned players who signed up. The DP World Tour has yet to comment on penalties for players who jumped into the series without its approval.

Twenty players have now defected from the PGA Tour, with Patrick Reed, the last former Masters champion, confirmed on Saturday as signing up for LIV Golf as the final round was underway.

However, the lucrative rewards for joining the series funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund were not enough to attract players ranked in the top 10 in the world.

Reed, who earned nearly $37 million in a decade on the PGA Tour, is ranked 36th. The 31-year-old American’s only major victory was the 2018 Masters.

After appearing at three Ryder Cups, where he was one of the hottest characters on Team USA, Reed’s decision could make him ineligible for selection in the future.

Reed said he will make his debut at the second stop of the LIV Golf Series in Portland, Oregon from June 30 to July 2.

Pat Perez, the 46-year-old American ranked No. 168 in the world, also joined the breakaway on Saturday, saying he wanted to travel less after 21 years on the PGA Tour. He made no mention on LIV’s live show about the riches on offer.

Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses has drawn criticism from groups including Amnesty International that the country is ‘washing the sport’ of its image by investing in the commitment of sports stars.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, who declined to speak to media at the event, called the series “a force for good” in a speech at the victory ceremony, without addressing criticism of the Saudi project.

LIV Golf plays for financial largesse. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, said on stage that there would be a $54 million prize for any player who could reach an implausible 54 at a LIV event.

For many in the United States, Saudi Arabia will forever be associated with the collapse of the World Trade Towers and the death of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. All 19 9/11 hijackers, all but four were Saudi citizens, and the Saudi kingdom was the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida and the mastermind of the attack.

Terry Strada, national president of 9/11 Families United, sent a letter to representatives of the LIV Golf stars calling on them to reconsider their participation in the series. Her husband, Tom, died when a hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

“Given Saudi Arabia’s role in the deaths of our loved ones and those injured on 9/11 – your fellow Americans – we are angry that you are so willing to help the Saudis cover up this story in their demand for ‘respectability’. “”, Strada wrote, accusing the players of betraying American interests.

Strada’s letter was sent to Reed’s agents as well as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na.

“When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit in their whitewashing and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately need – and you’re willing to pay handsomely to manufacture,” Strada wrote.

“The Saudis don’t care about golf’s deep-rooted sportsmanship or its origins as a gentleman’s game based on core values ​​of mutual respect and personal integrity. They care about using professional golf to launder their reputation, and they pay you to help them do it.

Families of the victims are trying to hold Saudi Arabia accountable in New York, despite its government’s insistence that any allegations of complicity in the terror attacks are “categorically false”.

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