The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series event will tee off starting Thursday with players such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and other notable names joining the venture.
To preview the three-day event the circuit held an opening news conference at Centurion Golf Club in St. Albans, England on Tuesday.
Johnson resigned from the PGA Tour. Players among the 48-person field were asked about LIV Golf being financed by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia and its role in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, among other atrocities.
Here are some highlights from the news conference, which included abbreviated explanations and reporters being removed.
Graeme McDowell: ‘Really hard question’
According to ESPN, McDowell was one of the lone golfers to provide a response to a question about working on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
“I wish I had the ability to be able to have that conversation with you,” McDowell said. “You know, I think as golfers, if we tried to cure geopolitical situations in every country in the world that we play golf in, we wouldn’t play a lot of golf. It’s a really hard question to answer. ‘re just here to focus on the golf and kind of what it does globally for the role models that these guys are and that we are, and yeah, that’s a really hard question to get into.
“I mean, this has been incredibly polarizing. I think we all agree, the Kashoggi situation, that was reprehensible.”
Talor Gooch: ‘I’m not that smart’
Posed with a question about participating in “sportswashing” – using sports to present a sanitized version of a political regime or operation – Talor Gooch had this to say:
“I don’t think that’s fair,” he said, via ESPN. “Also… I’m a golfer. I’m not that smart. I try to hit a golf ball into a small hole. Golf is hard enough. I try to worry about golf, and I’m excited about out this week .”
Kevin Na confident he can play Ryder Cup
As of now, players must be PGA Tour members to play in the Ryder Cup. By participating in LIV Golf, they risk being banned for playing with a non-sanctioned competitor.
Kevin Na thinks it won’t come down to that, though. “I honestly don’t think it’s going to happen.”
“Rules can be changed,” he said.
Dustin Johnson resigns from PGA Tour
While McDowell opted to not resign from the PGA Tour yet, Johnson took the preemptive step.
“I’m excited about (LIV),” he said. “Obviously the Ryder Cup is unbelievable and something that has meant a lot to me. … Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that again, but I don’t make the rules.”
Reporter removed before returning
According to ESPN, Associated Press reporter Rob Harris was removed after a LIV spokesman cut him off while trying to answer a question. Players began to leave as LIV officials reprimanded the reporter for not being “polite.”
Security led Harris out after that. Harris was allowed back into the media center about 10 minutes later, per ESPN.
Ari Fleischer runs LIV Golf news conference
The emcee of the news conference was former White House press secretary and Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer.
The spokesman was held to the same standard as the players and asked to square his employment with LIV Golf compared to his past Twitter posts that the government criticized.
Fleischer also does media consulting for the College Football Playoff.
Contributing: Associated Press
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @Boombaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LIV Golf Invitational Series: Press conference gets heated