Dustin Johnson, who pledged allegiance to the U.S.-based PGA Tour in February, will be the top golfer in a Saudi-backed rival’s inaugural tour of the Centurion Golf Club outside London. Phil Mickelson, who recently expressed some support for an alternative scheme, was not among those listed on the tournament field.
Mickelson’s absence was a slight surprise, though six seats were still available on Tuesday so he could change his mind. Johnson’s involvement is a violation of the broader solidarity expressed by elite men golfers on the PGA Tour over the past six months.
Johnson, 37, ranked 13th in the world, was one of 42 players listed for the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event in the field, a major shareholder of the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund. Starting Leagues offer unlimited tournaments with a total prize pool of $ 25 million each and the top players are guaranteed millions in fees regardless of their performance.
Other players on the pitch were expected, including many – including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Richard Blend, Graham McDowell and Ian Pulter – over 40 years old. In total, while next week at LIV Golf Course 16 players hit the top 100. Only two – Johnson and Louis Ostwizen – hit the top 30.
The PGA Tour and the European Golf Establishment Tour have rejected a member golfers’ game at LIV Golf, led by retired champions Greg Norman. PGA Tour officials said those who play in any of the separatist circles’ tournaments face penalties, which could include suspension or loss of tour membership.
The next step in the clash may be in court. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has insisted that tour lawyers believe that any discipline passed on to golfers playing in a competing tour will withstand legal scrutiny.
Johnson, a two-time top winner who grossed more than $ 74 million in career revenue from the PGA Tour, said in February that he was “totally committed to the PGA Tour.” It was a sentiment echoed by all the top 10 players and each leading cohort of young golfers who have dominated the PGA Tour for the past two seasons.
Rory McIlroy, the four-time reigning champion, called the new rival league “dead in the water”.
Johnson’s agent, David Winkel, issued a statement Tuesday night: “Dustin has been considering this possibility for the past few years. In the end, she decided it was in her and her family’s best interests to pursue it. Dustin never had a problem with the PGA Tour and is grateful for everything he gave her, but eventually felt it was very convincing to be turned down. ”
“The free agency has finally come to golf.” Said Norman in his statement. “This is an opportunity to start a movement that will change the course of history by introducing a new and open competition for the sport that we all love. The desire of the players to participate in LIV Golf confirms their strong belief in our model and their confidence in what we are building for the future. ”
The LIV Golf Series includes eight events from June to October, including one in Thailand and five in the United States. At the end of July, the host site will be the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ
The role of Saudi Arabia in the new round has already caused controversy. Mickelson came under fire in February after he acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had a “terrible human rights record” – including the murder of a Washington Post journalist – but said he was considering the new round as “once in a lifetime”. Opportunity to put pressure on the PGA Tour to increase the player’s revenue. Mickelson later said his remarks were “reckless.”