Controversial Saudi-backed golf tour heads to Chicago

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (NewsNation) — The kickoff of the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf tour sparked controversy with its competitor, the PGA Tour, and many who feel displeased with the Saudis’ human rights record.

The suburban course in Sugar Grove is the first stop in Chicago for the new tour. It’s where the fifth LIV Golf event and fourth on U.S. soil is being held this weekend.

The tour has drawn controversy since its inception, including criticism from human rights groups because it’s financed by Saudi Arabia.

The LIV Golf tour is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s initiative to transform Saudi Arabia’s “conservative oil image” into one that aligns more with that of Dubai, the New York times reported.

The initiative plans to increase Saudi Arabia’s power on a global scale and expand its Western reputation. 

There’s also the issue of where the funding is coming from, given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Critics say the players are essentially taking blood money.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, is one of them. The Majority Whip and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman tweeted Thursday he was not happy to have the event in his state.

“This weekend, a golf glove will try and cover a blood-stained hand as the LIV golf tournament comes to Chicago in the Saudi government’s continued, desperate attempt to clean up its image,” Durbin wrote.

The players tried to avoid politics and keep the focus on golf.

Joaquin Niemann, playing his second LIV event, sees the series helping “grow the game in a good way doing this team format.”

“It’s getting so exciting,” he added. “I’ve been loving it.”

Bryson DeChambeau hopes the PGA Tour and LIV Golf come together someday and allow players to compete on both tours. He insisted his goal is not to overtake the PGA Tour.

The LIV tour design competes with the PGA’s tour, although the LIV tour’s structure differs significantly. The format of the LIV tour includes a team component, involving a captain and selection of players with that team.