Greg Norman has accused the PGA Tour of “bullying and threatening” its players for suggesting they face a lifetime ban if they take part in his Saudi-funded super league.
The former world number one also states that the tour has, for decades put its own financial interests ahead of those of its players.
In his first response since Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson unexpectedly backed the status quo rather than joining the proposed breakaway circuit, Norman has written an open letter to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
“When you try to bluff and intimidate players by bullying and threatening them, you are guilty of going too far, being unfair, and you likely are in violation of the law,” Norman writes.
The PGA Tour said it would not be commenting on Norman’s statement.
The Australian is the chief executive of Liv Golf Investments is trying to set up the Super Golf League using Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund for financial backing.
He contends that Monahan has threatened anyone who chooses to play on his proposed circuit with suspensions.
On Tuesday, the commissioner addressed players at this week’s Honda Classic in Florida. Sources suggest Monahan told anyone planning to defect to leave his tour but that lifetime bans were not mentioned.
All of the world’s top 10 golfers have now sided with the PGA Tour and American Olympic champion Xander Schauffele is the latest to say he has no intention of defecting.
“Surely you jest,” the Australian begins his letter to the commissioner. “And surely, your lawyers at the PGA Tour must be holding their breath.
“As has been widely reported, you have threatened the players on the PGA Tour, all of whom are independent contractors, with lifetime bans if they decide to play golf in a league sponsored by anyone other than the Tour.
“For decades, I have fought for the rights of players to enjoy a career in which they are rewarded fully and properly for their efforts. They are one-in-a-million athletes.
“Yet for decades, the Tour has put its own financial ambitions ahead of the players, and every player on the tour knows it.”
Norman adds: “Simply put, you can’t ban players from playing golf. Players have the right and the freedom to play where we like.
“I know for a fact that many PGA players were and still are interested in playing for a new league, in addition to playing for the Tour.
“What is wrong with that? What is wrong with allowing players to make their own decisions about where to play and how often to play?”
Norman says the PGA Tour cannot legally enforce bans on defectors.
Earlier this week, Phil Mickelson, who has been in talks with the Saudi super league, apologised after being quoted heavily criticising the kingdom’s regime, explaining that he was seeking leverage over the PGA Tour.
The 51-year-old six-time major winner, who is the USPGA champion, subsequently lost the backing of one of his main sponsors, KPMG, “by mutual consent”.
Former world number one Rory McIlroy, a staunch supporter of the PGA Tour, said last Sunday that he believes the breakaway project is “dead in the water”.
European Ryder Cup veterans Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson are all thought to be interested in competing in the super league. Westwood recently revealed he has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Norman finishes his letter to Monahan by stating: “Commissioner – this is just the beginning. It certainly is not the end.”