Tommy Fleetwood turns down LIV offer as tour sets sights on Tyrrell Hatton

Nicolai Højgaard another to reject deal as Saudi-backed tour look for team members to join Jon Rahm

Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Højgaard have each turned down a recent offer to join LIV’s third season as the Saudi rebel golf circuit continues its relentless pursuit of the sport’s biggest names. A third member of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team, Tyrrell Hatton, also remains firmly in the sights of the breakaway tour.

The trio – who are all participating in this week’s Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour – have shown no public indication they could be coaxed to LIV but there is a strong sense of unease within golf’s traditional ecosystem that the Saudi Arabia-backed tour will return with formal offers worth tens of millions per player that would be tough to refuse.

If Fleetwood defects it would be a huge blow to the traditional set-up given his status as one of the biggest names in British golf and Rory McIlroy’s right-hand man in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory last year.

Speaking earlier this week, Fleetwood seemed circumspect about his future. “I want to continue to try to be the best golfer I can possibly be,” said the Englishman. “Wherever the world of golf is going and whatever is happening, shooting 75s and 76s isn’t going to help anyone.


“Wherever the world of golf takes me and my game, I will go and play and continue to do the same things. Over the last few years, all my decisions have been about how I feel I can get the most out of my game. There is all this uncertainty and you can get caught up in it. There are a lot of people making decisions, golfers aren’t making those decisions. My job is to keep working and keep improving.”

Jon Rahm switched to LIV in December and, should the tour sign up Fleetwood, Hatton and Højgaard, a third of the European team that triumphed over the United States in Rome last year will play under its banner. Whispers of high-profile defections to LIV have been commonplace on the range here at the Emirates Club over the past few days.

LIV’s signing of Rahm, the Masters champion, was viewed as a serious statement of intent by the breakaway tour. Despite talks continuing with a view to alignment between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund – with added investment from the Fenway Sports Group – officials at LIV have consistently stressed their tour is here to stay. The targeting of marquee names in Fleetwood and Hatton plus Højgaard as a rising star of the sport is another clear power play by the Saudis. LIV’s new campaign will get under way in Mexico on February 2nd.

In Dubai, Cameron Young marched to the summit of the leaderboard courtesy of a second round 64. The world number 25, who is making his Desert Classic debut, has reached 13 under par. Matters would be even better for the New Yorker but for a dropped shot at the 9th, his 18th. He leads by three from Andy Sullivan and Adrian Meronk.

“My putting was fantastic,” said Young. “I made a couple of long ones in the first round then made a few more today that had no right going in. I hit a bunch of good putts but it was just one of those days where you kind of have a couple 30-footers and you look up and they are going right in the middle. It doesn’t happen all that often to have a bunch of them in one round.” – Guardian

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