Dustin Johnson has followed through with his plans to play in the Saudi-owned LIV Golf Invitational Series. Last month, Johnson (seen above at the Farmers Insurance Open in January) was listed in the field for the inaugural LIV Golf event (which begins Thursday in London, England). The PGA Tour then put out a statement that they would not authorize their members to play in LIV events, and that those who chose to participate would face unspecified “disciplinary action.”
Despite that PGA Tour threat, and despite the waves of criticism for the Saudi regime (which owns a majority stake in this series through its Public Investment Fund), many prominent golfers have still followed through with plans to play in this week’s LIV event. That list includes Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na. Na did so by resigning from the PGA Tour rather than waiting to see what “disciplinary action” they imposed on him, and Johnson has now followed suit, discussing that move in a press conference Tuesday at Centurion Golf Club in London (site of the upcoming LIV event). Here’s more on that from Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN:
“For right now, I’ve resigned my membership on the tour and I’m going to play [LIV] for now,” Johnson said. “That’s the plan.”
In February, Johnson released a statement through PGA Tour Communications saying he was fully committed to the tour, but he ultimately changed his mind.
“At that time, I was committed to playing the PGA Tour,” Johnson said. “I’m very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it’s done for me. I’ve done pretty well out there for the last 15 years. But this is something that was best for me and my family. It’s something exciting and something new.”
Johnson said he fully expects to be able to play in the majors, including next week’s U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts. The USGA has not shown any indication that it would attempt to bar players who joined the LIV Golf Tour from its championships. Johnson has a 10-year exemption into the U.S. Open because of his 2017 victory, and his 2020 Masters victory earned him five-year exemptions into the Open Championship and PGA Championship through 2026.
“I can’t answer for the majors, but hopefully they’re going to allow us to play,” Johnson said. “Obviously I’m exempt for the majors, so I plan on playing unless I hear otherwise.”
It’s unclear how much money Johnson has received for joining the LIV series; Mickelson reportedly received $200 million, and Tiger Woods was reportedly offered nine figures (but turned that down). But Johnson is certainly one of the biggest names in this field; his 24 career PGA Tour victories trail only Mickelson, Woods, and Vijay Singh amongst active members, and he has those aforementioned major championships, a U.S. Open win in 2017 and a Masters win in 2020. This does come with possible costs for Johnson, though; his resignation means he can’t play PGA Tour events, and Van Valkenberg notes that it may also lead to him not being eligible for the Ryder Cup. But Johnson’s made his choice, and we’ll see how that works out for him.
[ESPN; photo from Orlando Ramirez/USA Today Sports]