Dustin Johnson is reportedly set to pick up around £100million after committing to the inaugural event of the contentious Saudi-backed Golf League. Johnson initially revealed in a statement earlier this year that he will not be competing on the breakaway circuit run by former world No. 1 Greg Norman.
When the entry list for the League’s opening event was released on Monday though, the golfing world was shocked to see Johnson’s name headlining the field. It has since been revealed a lucrative signing on fee was offered to the 2020 Masters champion late on in negotiations.
Norman’s decision to lure Johnson back in reportedly came after the Series failed to secure the full commitment of disgraced star Phil Mickelson, with the Australian keen to sign up one of the PGA Tour’s marquee players, report the Telegraph.
While the American is set to collect a hefty sum for committing to the breakaway circuit, Johnson’s legacy and popularity is sure to take a hit from the PGA Tour, his fans and sponsors. With the ex-Masters champ not teeing it up at London next Thursday, it means he will be skipping the Canadian Open – a PGA Tour event he had already committed to.
Remarkably the lead partner to the Canadian event – Royal Bank of Canada – is also one of Johnson’s key sponsors, and in a statement revealed that they were ‘very disappointed’ with the 37-year-old’s decision. The American’s LIV Series switch was defended by his agent David Winkle, who revealed Johnson took the offer in ‘his and his family’s best interest’.
He said: “Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years. Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it. Dustin has never had any 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.”
While Johnson is undoubtedly the biggest name on the entry list, the likes of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Louis Oousthuizen are also included. Whether the rebel players face consequences surrounding their Tour and Ryder Cup future remains to be seen, after both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour initially declined those who had applied for release to compete in the opening Saudi-backed event.
In a statement the PGA Tour said: “As communicated to our entire membership… members have not been authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations. Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.” One man who will not be teeing it up at Centurion Club next week is Rory McIlroy, who revealed he was happy to continue to play ‘proper tournaments’ away from the LIV Series.
Were you surprised to see Johnson included in the Series? Let us know in the comments section below.
Despite his strong stance, he did have some sympathies with those who made the switch. Speaking at the Memorial Tournament he said: “As we’ve seen, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. So someone that isn’t guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events, you can spend more time with your family.
“I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position. Again, I’m not in that position, and it’s not something that I would do. But you know, you at least have to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see where they are coming from.”