NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Another player is taking his talents to LIV Golf.
During the live stream of the final round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series event on Saturday near Portland at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, the upstart circuit led by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced Paul Casey on air as its newest player.
The 44-year-old Englishman, a former UNICEF ambassador who is no longer listed on the organization’s website, had previously spoken out against playing the Saudi International event held in the Kingdom. He then flip-flopped on that decision after competing in the event – which now features the PIF in its title – the last two years.
LIV Golf has long been criticized as a way for the Saudi government to “sportswash” its human rights record with big money, no-cut events that are fan-friendly. Casey explained his decision to avoid the Saudi event in 2019 due to human rights violations, but his heel-turn decision to play wasn’t “taken lightly.”
“I wasn’t comfortable going in the past, but I have always been open-minded and willing to learn. I believe sport has the power to affect change. I’ve listened to the Saudi’s commitment to this and their vision for the future,” Casey said in a statement released to Golfweek and a few other select members of the media in 2020. “(Saudi Arabia) have successfully hosted two professional ladies tournaments which shows that Golf Saudi have big plans not only for professional golf, but more so for grassroots and the next generation.”
A royal decree in 2019 from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman loosened some restrictions placed on women – employment discrimination, registering births and deaths, the ability to travel internationally without being accompanied by a male guardian – but the Kingdom’s male guardian system still controls critical aspects of a women’s life.
Casey, ranked No. 26 in the world, finished third at the Players Championship in March but hasn’t played a full round since after conceding matches at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and withdrawing from the Masters before the first round.
Casey will join Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers GC and make his debut at LIV’s third event at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, July 29-31.