LIV Golf: Paul Casey latest to join controversial Saudi-backed league
Paul Casey has joined the lucrative and controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series and will compete at its event at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey later this month, the Saudi-backed breakaway league said on Saturday.
The 44-year-old Englishman is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and 15-time winner on the European Tour.
Casey, who has been recovering from a back injury and whose last competition was at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in March, had previously said that taking Saudi money would make him a "hypocrite."
"It just didn't sit well with me," Casey told the Independent in 2019, speaking on the human rights implications of playing at the Saudi International that year. "I've not talked too much about it and I'm not sure I want to, but certainly signing a deal and being paid to be down there, I would be a hypocrite if I did that."
Following that stance, Casey reversed course by competing at the Saudi International the last two years.
"I believe sport has the power to affect change. I've listened to the Saudis' commitment to this and their vision for the future," he said.
"It is always better to include rather than exclude when eliciting change, thus I hope my participation will make a difference and I am looking forward to seeing these changes in person."
Casey joins a list of top golfers including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, former world number ones Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau who have joined the upstart league.
"LIV Golf continues to attract the best players in the sport as it builds increasingly competitive fields with each event," LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said in a statement.
Casey will join the team Crushers GC, captained by Bryson DeChambeau.
The PGA is expected to suspend Casey after he tees off with LIV for the first time, in keeping with previous policy enacted by commissioner Jay Monahan.
Bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), LIV Golf held its first event in London last month which was won by South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, who pocketed the $4 million prize – the biggest pay cheque in golf history.
Critics say the breakaway series amounts to blatant 'sportswashing' by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of its history of human rights abuses.
Phil Mickelson has not played since the publication of comments in February in which he criticised LIV Golf's Saudi backers.— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) June 9, 2022
He described them as "scary" with a "horrible record on human rights", noting the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi 👇https://t.co/YPqqzbDEog
The final day of its first event on US soil was being held near Portland, Oregon on Saturday.
The start of the three-day tournament at Pumpkin Ridge was met with a protest by 9/11 survivors and victims' families who criticised the golfers for their willingness to play in the league.
Family members of victims have sought a probe of their suspicions that Saudi Arabia was linked to the hijackers.
In September 2021, the Saudi government welcomed the release of classified documents related to an FBI probe and the country's US embassy said that "any allegation that Saudi Arabia is complicit in the September 11 attacks is categorically false".
(Reuters, Field Level Media via Reuters)