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Greg Norman's Public Pursuit of Hideki Matsuyama is Disgraceful

By: | Mon 04 Mar 2024

LIV Golf figurehead Greg Norman has recently commented that his circuit has been actively trying to recruit former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. Golfshake's Derek Clements that this public pursuit of the Japanese star is a disgraceful move.

What on earth is Greg Norman on? He has been a divisive individual for much of his career but the Australian has truly surpassed himself since being appointed commissioner of LIV Golf.

After Jon Rahm signed on the dotted line for LIV, Norman said that his phone had been ringing off the hook as the sport’s leading lights allegedly contacted him to express their interest in following the Spaniard. 

Since then, Tyrrell Hatton, Adrian Meronk and Anthony Kim have joined LIV - they are hardly what you would describe as global superstars. Hatton is most famous for his temper tantrums, Meronk for missing out on last year’s Ryder Cup and then sulking about it and Kim for going missing at the peak of his powers. Yes, there will be interest in Kim’s return to the sport, but only in the same way that people cannot help rubber-necking car crashes.

But Norman should be utterly ashamed of himself for telling the world that he has been actively seeking to recruit Hideki Matsuyama.

The Japanese player, who has been consistently linked with LIV, recently ended a two-year winless drought when he returned to his very best form and claimed the Genesis Invitational from a truly world-class field.

Norman said: "We’ve been trying to get Hideki Matsuyama [to sign with LIV Golf]. I don’t mind admitting that. When Hideki won in LA, what’s the first thing I did? I said, “Congratulations, Hideki. I’m proud of you, mate.'

"When Rory McIlroy missed out on the 2011 Masters, when he hit that wayward tee shot on 10, I sent him a message of support afterwards because I felt his pain, and he responded. And if Rory wins this year’s Masters, I’ll say congratulations on achieving the grand slam, right? That’s sport and that’s sportsmanship, and that’s the humility of the game. That’s me. That’s how I would do it.”

It has to be said that humility is not a word that most of us would associate with Norman.

It is bad enough that he should go public with his pursuit of Matsuyama but he knows exactly what he is doing.

Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama is an iconic figure in his homeland of Japan, a golf-mad country that rejoiced en masse when he won The Masters. His every move on and off the golf course is followed by a massive army of photographers and journalists. If Matsuyama so much as sneezes, the whole of Japan knows about it. I have watched Matsuyama play at The Open and I was staggered by the size of the media presence that follows him - and by the incredible number of interviews he has to do with the Japanese media upon completing his round. I don’t know how he copes. It must be exhausting.

Rahm was paid a reported $450m to join LIV. His defection sent shockwaves through our sport. But I would suggest that if Norman can persuade Matsuyama to come on board it will be an even greater coup for LIV.

Why? That’s easy. The rebel tour’s TV and live streaming figures are miserable. But if Matsuyama signs there will be massive interest in Japan. Make no mistake about this - LIV needs to raise its profile if it is to attract blue-chip sponsors and have any chance of negotiating a mainstream TV deal. As it stands right now, the financial model is simply not sustainable. Nobody can seriously believe that the Saudis will carry on pouring money into LIV without wanting to see some sort of return on their investment at some point. And Matsuyama could hold the key.

I have to say that if the PGA Tour loses Matsuyama then they only have themselves to blame, and may live to regret it. I have never been able to understand why they don’t see him as the prize asset he clearly is. 

His win at the Genesis was his ninth on the PGA Tour, meaning no Asian golfer has won more in the USA. And he is the only male golfer from Japan to have won a major. He is a thoroughly likeable individual with a wonderful temperament, and he is also blessed with good looks. In other words, he is a marketing man’s dream. But Jay Monahan and his cohorts just don’t seem to get that.

For Norman to target him in the way he is doing is nothing short of disgraceful. It means that every time he turns up at a PGA Tour event he is going to be asked about his future. And at some point he is going to become utterly fed up with it all. My money is on Matsuyama throwing in his lot with LIV sooner rather than later. 

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Tags: LIV Golf

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