GOLF

Dustin Johnson quits PGA Tour to play LIV Golf

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Two-time major champion Dustin Johnson has resigned from his PGA Tour membership in order to play in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational series.

The former world number one will play all eight events in the all-new $255m (£200m) series, which kicks off at the Centurion Club near London on Thursday.

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Johnson, 37, joined the PGA Tour in 2007 and earned $74 million during his career.

“I don’t want to play for the rest of my life, it gives me the opportunity to do what I want to do,” he said.

By quitting the PGA Tour, the 2020 Masters champion – who reportedly received $150 million in appearance fees to play on the series – is giving up his chance to compete in the Ryder Cup.

He has been on the winning side in two of his five appearances in the biennial competition against Europe, including winning all five of them in last year’s record 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits in Michigan.

“The Ryder Cup is amazing and has meant a lot to me, but I finally decided it was best for me and my family,” he said.

“All things are subject to change and hopefully at some point that will change and I’ll get the chance to do it again.”

PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh said last year: “If anybody wants to play a Ryder Cup for the United States, they’ll have to be a member of the PGA of America, and they get that. membership by being a member of the (PGA) Tour.”

Johnson’s move represents a significant U-turn from the 2016 US Open champion, who said in February he was committed to the PGA Tour, which threatened sanctions and possible bans on players who registering at LIV Golf.

When asked what had changed in such a short time, the world number simply replied: “I thought it was better for me and my family. I am resigning my PGA Tour membership.

“What the consequences will be, I can’t comment on how the Tour will handle that. I can’t answer for the majors, but hopefully they will allow us to play.

“Obviously I’m exempt for the majors, so I plan to play there unless I hear otherwise.”

The majors aren’t run by the PGA Tour, and Johnson’s victory two years ago at the Masters gives him a lifetime exemption to the tournament at Augusta National. His triumph at the 2016 US Open secured him a place in his national championship for 10 years. His victory at the Masters also gives him a five-year exemption for the Open and the US PGA Championship.

Johnson revealed his decision to leave the PGA Tour during a press conference at the Centurion Club on Tuesday

The Open Championship and US Open, which begin June 16 in Brookline, Massachusetts, are expected to introduce a special clause to disinvite any player participating in LIV Golf events.

Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson will also compete in what will be his first appearance after a four-month break from the game.

The American hasn’t played since controversial comments about the Saudi-funded events were published by his biographer in February. He is expected to speak to the media on Wednesday.

It has also been reported that Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace, who are also in the 48-man field for the event on the outskirts of London this week, have all resigned from their joining the American team. circuit.

However, Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell has not resigned from his PGA Tour membership, saying he does not want to find himself in a “legal position” with the organization.

He last played in the Ryder Cup in 2014, four years after netting the winning putt at Celtic Manor. He was vice-captain of the winning team in Paris in 2018 and again on the losing side last year.

The 42-year-old Northern Irishman, who won the US Open in 2010, has been touted as a potential captain for Team Europe when the event is played at Adare Manor in the Republic of Ireland in 2027.

“As far as the Ryder Cup is concerned, it’s something I thought about for a long time before making the decision to come here. Hopefully it won’t affect that,” he said.

“When you look at the European Tour, the players here have done a lot for the Ryder Cup product and it would be a shame not to invite them back.

“Is it healthy for the sport? This Tour is designed to be a complement to the biggest tours in the world.”

Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Ratchanon Chantananuwat
(L-R) Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Ratchanon Chantananuwat are four of the attendees at the inaugural LIV Golf event

Fellow European Ryder Cup players Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Garcia are all at the Centurion this week.

The $25m (£20m) purse is the most lucrative on British soil, with $4m for the winner of this first of eight events to play in 2022.

This first invitational series will include six more regular season tournaments in 2022 – four in the United States, one in Thailand and one in Saudi Arabia – each with the same $25 million prize fund, meaning that each stage of the series is more lucrative than the richest. tournament on the PGA Tour.

The events will include team and individual competition, with 12 captains selecting three players in a draft-style format. Each day, teams of four will tee off on different holes at the same time in what is called a “shotgun tee”.

The individual winner of each event will take home $4 million – for comparison, the PGA Tour’s flagship event, the Players Championship, netted Cameron Smith $3.6 million for his victory in March, while Collin Morikawa took home $2 million for winning The Open Championship in 2021.

The eighth and final event, at Trump National Doral in Miami in October, will be a $50 million “Team Championship” knockout tournament featuring 12 teams. The winning team will receive $16 million, with each of the four players getting a 25% discount.

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