The Icons Series brings together 24 Ryder Cup-style golf professionals

JERSEY CITY, NJ (AP) — For those fed up with the row between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia-funded LIV golf series, Tom Brookes has something that may be of interest.

The Icons Series Executive Director is bringing a two-day tournament to Liberty National that will feature 24 professional athletes from all walks of life in a Ryder Cup-style competition.

It begins Thursday with two-time Major champion Fred Couples leading an American team against four-time Major champion Ernie Els and his team Rest of the World.

Among the players are Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Michael Strahan, recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz, boxer Canelo Álvarez of Mexico, Tottenham forward Harry Cane , recently retired women’s tennis No.1 Ash Barty and retired Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh.

“I think golf is so relevant right now and even more post-pandemic that it needs an injection of innovation and fresh air,” Brookes said Wednesday. “There are a lot of interruptions and breaks in golf at the moment. And what we want to do is the opposite. We want to unite icons of all sports, unite people, come together and enjoy an entertainment product focused on golf.”

This will be the third event in the Icons Series. The first took place in Dubai in 2015 and the second in England in 2017. An event scheduled for 2019 in Japan was canceled days apart due to a tsunami and earthquake. The COVID-19 pandemic pulled the event off course in 2021, and Brookes said returning this year was a late decision.

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However, he added that Icons has signed a two-year deal with Liberty National, which has hosted the 2017 Presidents Cup and the inaugural PGA Tour post-season event four times.

“I think we’ve stayed away from celebrities and just focused on athletes who are super competitive because of their DNA and we can try to humanize them and another sport,” Brookes said.

Both the PGA Tour (John Deere Classic) and LIV Golf (Portland) have events this weekend, the first time Greg Norman’s group has played in the United States.

Bad feelings between tours have intensified as the PGA Tour suspends players who signed up for LIV Golf without seeking release. Some players, like Dustin Johnson. have resigned as tour members. Others like Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka don’t have that.

Most of the athletes who attended the Icons event understood why golfers joined LIV, and many said they were probably doing what they felt was best for their families.

Els said he had a bad feeling about LIV Golf because he grew up believing that pure golf is a 72-hole stroke game that includes a cut. The LIV events are 54 holes with no cuts.

Els’ biggest criticism was of golf’s premier tours, saying the Saudis have been on the rise for some time and now they’ve arrived in a big way. He said the tours should have considered opportunities for the sides to coexist.

“That wasn’t the case,” he said. “And now the players and everyone has been thrown in the middle. And you have to choose a side and… it doesn’t feel right.”

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