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9/11 families protest as LIV kicks off in Oregon

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The LIV Golf Invitational will be held at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — LIV Golf’s first U.S. event is scheduled to kick off Thursday, and a group of survivors and families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks gathered earlier in the morning at a nearby park to speak out against Saudi Arabia. – tour financed.

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The LIV Golf Invitational kicks off Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.

Brett Eagleson was 15 years old when he lost his father in the World Trade Center collapse. Nearly 3,000 people were killed on that day in 2001.

“We want golfers to know who they’re sleeping with, who they’re doing business with,” Eagleson said. “Any golfer who decides to play in the LIV tournament should have to listen to family members and look us in the eye, and explain to us why they are taking the Saudi money and why they are playing in this tournament. And we want the ability to educate golfers on what we know about Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11.”

RELATED: Controversial LIV Golf hosted a glitzy draft party at a Portland nonprofit

Eagleson, now 36, is among those who criticize the LIV tournament and its connection to a regime that has flouted human rights. All but four of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and the Saudi kingdom was the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda chief and mastermind of the attack.

Eagleson is especially disheartened by Phil Mickelson, one of his childhood heroes, and his decision to join LIV Golf. The tour, directed by Greg Norman and financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has offered signing bonuses, some reportedly in excess of $100 million, which some players have found irresistible.

“Now to see him bowing down to the Saudis and saying he doesn’t give a shit, he doesn’t give a shit about the fighting and the pain and the misery. Three thousand dead Americans. He doesn’t care because they offered him a paycheck? It’s just the worst form of greed,” Eagleson said.

In addition to Mickelson, major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau have also joined LIV Golf. Mickelson did not speak to reporters before the Oregon tournament.

As much as the upstart tour no doubt wants to escape criticism, it can’t help it. At pre-tournament press conferences, golfers were asked about the Saudi connection and gave similar easy responses to questions on the subject, repeating variations on the message that golf can be a “force for good.” .

But long before LIV Golf came to tiny North Plains, the town’s mayor and residents of surrounding towns wrote to the Texas-based club’s owner to protest the event, saying it did not align with LIV Golf’s values. community. US Senator Ron Wyden called the event a “sports wash” to distract from human rights abuses.

The Portland stop is the second of eight LIV Golf events this year. Families of 9/11 victims and survivors also spoke out against the inaugural event outside London earlier this month.

RELATED: At Pumpkin Ridge’s Saudi-Backed LIV Golf Tournament, a ‘Kids Zone’ and ‘Fan Village’ Await Attendees

Koepka, who recently joined LIV Golf after initially denouncing it, played down concerns about Saudi funding.

“They are allowed to have their opinions. You know, we’ve heard it. I think everyone has. It’s been mentioned,” said Koepka, a former World No. 1 and four-time major champion. “But look, like we said, our only job is to go play golf, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to grow the game.”

Part of the charm of LIV Golf is the money. In addition to signing bonuses, the 48 players will compete for a $20 million purse, with an additional $5 million prize fund for a team competition. Charl Schwartzel won the London event (and the team portion) for $4.75 million.

LIV tournaments are played over 54 holes with no cut, and even the last qualifier receives $120,000. Organizers promise exciting events that they say will attract new fans.

The PGA Tour has responded to LIV Golf’s challenge by suspending all active members who competed in the first LIV event. Those playing in Oregon will also be suspended unless they renounce their tour membership.

The PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic takes place in Illinois this week.

Former Masters champion Fred Couples leads an American team of athletes competing in an exhibition at Liberty National in New Jersey beginning Thursday. Hall of Famer Couples has been outspoken against LIV Golf and said he hopes his event will draw more spectators.

“It seems so strange to me that the only way they can get these guys off the tour is by throwing money at them. There is no other reason. Everything else is BS,” Couples said. “It’s not improving the game. They are playing eight to 10 tournaments here. How is that improving the game?

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