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Rebel Saudi-backed golf series set to reveal 'marquee names' who have signed up

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Rebel Saudi-backed golf series ‘hope to reveal Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood among their marquee names’ as the controversial, $250m league prepares to launch in England this summer

  • The Saudi-backed golf series is pressing on despite its recent controversies 
  • Comments from Phil Mickelson have placed the breakaway under a black cloud 
  • Organisers hope to reveal the ‘marquee names’ who have now signed up soon 
  • Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have all been targeted to take part

The rebel Saudi-backed golf series is set to reveal the ‘marquee names’ who have signed up to the tour, according to reports, with the likes of Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Kevin Na among those said to have been targeted.

Sportsmail exclusively reported at the weekend that the circuit was claiming privately that it has managed to snap up two former World No 1 players, both Ryder Cup heroes, ahead of its launch in England this summer.

The event, known as the LIV Golf Invitational Series, has threatened to spark a civil war in the sport, and cast a black cloud over the Masters when three-time winner Phil Mickelson withdrew due to the furore over recent comments.

Bubba Watson is among the big-name stars to have reportedly joined the Saudi-backed league

Bubba Watson is among the big-name stars to have reportedly joined the Saudi-backed league

He had claimed that the Saudis were ‘scary mother*******’, and that he had only hinted at his involvement in the circuit to make more from the PGA Tour. 

The backers of the breakaway series have spent recent days hosting sponsors and golf executives at a mansion outside Augusta and now, Greg Norman, the chief executive of LIV Golf, has revealed more about the potential participants.

Speaking to The Telegraph, he also claimed that the controversial remarks from Mickelson were part of an attempt to scupper the proposals. 

‘We’ve respected the Masters and let it go off, but now our journey is finally coming to fruition – for the players not for me,’ he said. ‘Their rightful place to have what they want. That’s why they are still very, very, very interested. 

‘We have players signed, contrary to the white noise you’re hearing out there.

Ian Poulter is another heavyweight seemingly snapped up by the controversial breakaway

Ian Poulter is another heavyweight seemingly snapped up by the controversial breakaway

The project has been shrouded in controversy over recent comments from Phil Mickelson

The project has been shrouded in controversy over recent comments from Phil Mickelson

What is the LIV Series?

The breakaway circuit will launch in London in June, at the Centurion Club near St Albans. 

It will tee off on June 9, one week before the US Open, with a £19m purse for a 48-man field.

Seven more events will follow run by LIV Golf, going to the US (four events) Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

Those seven will each be worth £19m. A £23m prize for the top three players of the first seven events will be available.

The eighth event will be a team championship with a £38m prize — location TBC.

Each event will be richer than the four majors.

‘The interest level we’ve had… well, I had a player who’s won a couple of major championships sitting in my very office here 48 hours ago.’

While the finer details are still yet to be confirmed, LIV Golf hope to announce a number of the players taking part in their competition ‘in the coming weeks’. 

The league is set to begin in just two months’ time at the Centurion Club in St Albans, and it will be the richest tournament ever in Europe, with the 48-man group battling it out to take home an eye-watering prize of more than £19million.  

‘Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter who plays, we’re going to put the event on,’ Norman added. ‘There’s a $4m first prize. I hope a kid who’s 350th in the world wins. 

‘It’ll change his life, his family’s life. And then a few of our events will go by and the top players will see someone winning $6m, $8m, and say “enough is enough, I know I can beat these guys week in week out with my hands tied behind my back”.’

The Telegraph have also claimed that, just weeks ago, LIV Golf were poised to unveil the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau as heavyweight participants – before a number of U-turns left them scrambling. 

Rory McIlroy even declared the plans as ‘dead in the water’, and Norman admitted the moves were a ‘kick in the teeth’.     

Lee Westwood has long since been linked with the competition, and is said to have signed up

Lee Westwood has long since been linked with the competition, and is said to have signed up

The organisers hope to reveal the'marquee players' ahead of their launch in the coming weeks

The organisers hope to reveal the ‘marquee players’ ahead of their launch in the coming weeks

He said: ‘It was a gut punch – we were so close. 

‘On that Tuesday we had our strength of field ready to go and the PGA Tour heard about this and threw a giant redwood tree in our roadway. 

‘And they did, there’s no question about it.

‘They created a disruption by putting that information out, all those comments about Phil out there.’ 

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