The LIV Golf Invitational Series arrives in the United States this week with Bryson DeChambeau saying on Tuesday the controversial Saudi-backed venture can be a force for good.
After its debut at the Centurion Club outside London earlier this month the LIV Series moves to the U.S. for four consecutive events starting at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon where it has received something less than a warm welcome.
U.S. senator Ron Wyden, North Plains mayor Teri Lenahan and 10 other mayors in surrounding communities have expressed concerns about the event being played in their backyard while according to multiple reports some members of the Pumpkin Ridge club resigned their membership in protest.
Critics say the breakaway series, bank-rolled to the tune of US$250 million by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), amounts to blatant 'sportswashing' by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of human rights concerns.
"I respect everyone's opinion that's the most important thing," DeChambeau told reporters at an LIV event with other players.
"I hope people understand that I do respect it but golf is a force for good and as time goes on hopefully people see the good that they (LIV) are doing and what they are trying to accomplish rather than looking at the bad that has happened before.
"Moving on from that is important and continuing to move forward in a positive light is something that can be a force for good."
Like major winners Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson who also joined the rebel circuit, DeChambeau was lured away from the PGA Tour by a multi-million dollar appearance contract.
The 2020 U.S. Open champion said the money would allow him to better support his philanthropic ventures.
But some critics view the purses as little more than blood money, pointing to the 2018 killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
When the players were asked if they had any reservations about LIV's connection to Saudi Arabia and its human rights record the answer was direct.
"No," said Pat Perez. "I'm playing golf.
"This group has provided me an opportunity to play golf and have a different schedule.
"That's my only concern."
Two of the LIV Series' most significant signings DeChambeau and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka will join the 48-player field this week that will play for a US$25 million purse, more than three-times the prize money (US$7.1 million) that will be on offer at the PGA Tour stop, the John Deere Classic.
"The (PGA) Tour has tried to strong arm us all year with bans and suspensions, how did that work?" said Perez. "Look at the guys that are here, it didn't work at all.
"How many major winners do you have here compared to the John Deere? It's not even close.
"The Tour keeps talking about strength of field, the strength of field is here."--REUTERS