South African Charl Schwartzel won the first individual stroke play competition in the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series on Saturday.
With the win, Schwartzel earned $4 million for the 54-hole event over three rounds. The 37-year-old shot 7 under at Centurion Golf Club outside London, finishing a shot ahead of Hennie du Plessis.
Schwartzel’s four-man team, Stinger GC, also won the tag team competition by 14 strokes over Crushers GC and will split the $3 million prize pool. The 2011 Masters champion’s combined salary for winning individual and tag team contests is $4.75 million.
Phil Mickelson finished in 34th place with 10-plus in the 48-man field. Dustin Johnson placed eighth and finished the tournament with 1 under.
Led by former world No. 1 Greg Norman, the LIV Golf Series runs from June to October with the goal, she says, “of holistically improving the health of professional golf globally to help free the untapped potential of sport (sic). .”
It is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the man a US intelligence report named as responsible for endorsement of the operation that led to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bin Salman has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.
LILY: What the LIV Golf Series actually looked like on the course
The source of the money has led to questions and criticism being directed at organizers and players over the choice to play for money from the country given its human rights record.
The country has been criticized by human rights groups for years. In March, Saudi Arabia executed 81 men in the largest mass execution in decades. Rights groups have criticized the country for executing people who were minors at the time of the offenses for which they were convicted.
Mickelson was the center of attention at the inaugural tournament, primarily because he is one of the sport’s biggest stars, but also because it will be his first competition since his controversial comments about the sponsored events. Saudi Arabia were published earlier this year by his biographer.
The six-time big winner was quoted in a 2021 interview with author Alan Shipnuck for his upcoming book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” as saying derogatory things on human rights in Saudi Arabia. record and claiming that the kingdom killed journalist Khashoggi.
The next LIV Golf Tournament is scheduled for June 30-July 2 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club near Portland, Oregon.