Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
On Wednesday, after months of at times bitter squabbling with the PGA, and an equal amount of time promising a star-studded product, Saudi-backed LIV Golf announced the field of its first tournament.
While not quite the blockbuster collection of talent the new tour or its head, PGA Hall of Famer Greg Norman, touted, it would be unfair to call LIV Golf’s initial pool of talent lacking.
Dustin Johnson, a two-time major winner and former world No. 1, was the most notable name on the list of 42 golfers who, along with six players to be named later, will compete June 9-11 in London.
Johnson was something of a surprise entrant, having previously indicated he was content to play exclusively with the PGA, where he is currently ranked in the top 20.
“Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years,” David Winkle, Johnson’s agent, said in a statement. “Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it. Dustin has never had an issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him, but in the end, felt this was too compelling to pass up.”
Johnson was one of two world top 20 golfers listed in the field, the other being South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the 2010 Open Championship (perhaps better known to casual followers as the British Open).
Sergio Garcia, at one time among the better-known golfers on the planet and winner of the 2017 Masters, was also listed as a participant. At 42, though, Garcia is in the twilight of his career. Johnson, at 28, is in his prime.
Participation will come at a price, especially for golfers with ambitions of playing on the PGA Tour, where commissioner Jay Monahan has promised a stiff penalty for anyone who jumps to LIV.
ESPN reported on Wednesday that Monahan told agents for numerous top golfers that no one will be allowed to play in both tours. Monahan had earlier hinted that a lifetime ban might be applied to any PGA golfer who defected.
“As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations,” a statement from the PGA reads. “Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.”
Johnson and fellow major winner Graeme McDowell have already suffered a financial penalty, although not from the PGA. On Wednesday, Royal Bank of Canada announced it had dropped its sponsorship of both golfers.
This move is hardly surprising as Johnson and McDowell will miss the Canadian Open, of which RBC is the title sponsor, in order to participate in the LIV tournament.
As of now, 13 current PGA tour members have agreed to participate.
One noticeable absence from the field was Phil Mickelson, who has vacillated over the months about whether he would buck PGA warnings and join LIV. The price for Mickelson would be by far the steepest. In modern golf, only Tiger Woods stands as a more prominent figure.
Mickelson has won six majors, most recently the 2021 PGA Championship; but surprisingly opted to not defend his crown when the tournament was contested last month.