Padraig Harrington reacts to LIV and PGA merger: ‘My country thought it acceptable to lock up unmarried mothers’

Three-times major winner admitted merger of controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf with PGA and DP tours ‘unfortunately ... proves sports washing works’

Irish golfer Padraig Harrington has weighed in on the shock merger of Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf with established European and US tours in a series of tweets that included the claim his “own country thought it was acceptable to lock up unmarried mothers as late as 1996″.

The three time major golf championship winner also said Tuesday’s announcement proved “sports washing works” but was not surprised the merger had occurred.

“Definitely in the financial interest of both sides,” he posted on Twitter, as reaction began to pour in.

The emergence of LIV Golf had sparked a minor civil war in the sport with many marquee names peeled away from traditional competition tours in favour of vast sums of money funded by Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund.


Its forceful entry into the sport prompted accusations it was attempting to “sports wash”, or to clean its often tarnished international reputation by taking a lead role in popular sporting entertainment.

A number of golfers, notably Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, had criticised the breakaway set.

However, Tuesday’s announcement that LIV would merge with the established US PGA Tour and the European DP World Tour following months of acrimony, caused surprise and prompted widespread reaction.

In a series of tweets, Mr Harrington had said he was trying to explain why the merger had happened.

“My own country sells military technology to Saudi Arabia,” he posted. “So many other compromises. Yes this is sports washing and yes unfortunately it proves sports washing works. But maybe [there is] one positive, inclusion and trade has shown to improve and change countries involved for the better.

“My own country thought it was acceptable to lock up unmarried mothers as late as 1996.”

Mr Harrington said, that by acting early, the PGA Tour would end up with the “controlling share in world golf”. He also said he did not negotiate when approached to join LIV.

The bombshell story drew other high profile social media responses, including from former US president Donald Trump who described it as a “big, beautiful and glamorous deal”. Trump’s golf courses had been scheduled to host LIV tournaments. Phil Mickelson, a multi-major winning golfer who became a headline defector to LIV, posted: “Awesome day today”.

In the US, however, the 9/11 Families United group, representing relatives of the deceased, said it was “shocked and deeply offended” by the merger.

“Saudi operatives played a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and now it is bankrolling all of professional golf,” it said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times