With less than two weeks until its inaugural tournament at the Centurion Club in London, the LIV Golf Invitational Series and CEO Greg Norman finally released the field for the event on Tuesday night.
To the surprise of golf fans worldwide, Dustin Johnson — the 13th ranked golfer in the world — was one of several current PGA Tour players listed as part of the field. The list also included Sergio Garcia (OWGR 54), Talor Gooch (35), Kevin Na (33), Louis Oosthuizen (20), Ian Poulter (89), and Lee Westwood (74).
Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson was not included in the field but is expected to receive one of the final five spots available for the event. Mickelson was forced to miss out on both the Masters and PGA Championship after making controversial comments in February about the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Tour.
Other PGA Tour members taking part in LIV’s debut event, which will be held from June 9-11, are Matt Jones (68), Chase Koepka, and Hudson Swafford (91). Top amateurs Turk Pettit, the 2021 NCAA individual champion, and James Piot, the 2021 U.S. Amateur winner, will also be part of the field.
Among the 42 players announced by LIV Golf on Tuesday, the 37-year-old Johnson is undeniably the largest surprise. Johnson, a 24-time winner on the PGA Tour, previously pledged a commitment to the Tour back in February after Mickelson’s comments took the world by storm.
“I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour,” Johnson’s said in his February statement. “I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family.”
Yesterday, David Winkle — Johnson’s agent — issued a statement on the decision.
“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,” said Winkle. “Dustin has never had any issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him. But, in the end, [he] felt this was too compelling to pass up.”
How Will The PGA Tour and USGA Respond?
With the majority of the field now publicly released, it will be fascinating to see how the PGA Tour and DP World Tour decide to punish the players involved with LIV Golf.
On May 10, the PGA Tour denied event releases for its players to compete in the London event, which coincides with that week’s RBC Canadian Open. Commissioner Jay Monahan has made players aware that they could be suspended or even face a permanent ban from the PGA Tour.
“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations,” the PGA Tour said in a memo to its players. “As such, Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event under our regulations. As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”
Norman fired back in response to the PGA shutting down player requests for the breakaway tour’s inaugural event. The two-time Open winner has also mentioned having a legal team prepared to fight the PGA Tour in court, if necessary.
“Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament,” Norman said in a statement. “But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally.”
Additionally, the United States Golf Association (USGA) will have to make a decision for the upcoming U.S. Open, which is set to take place from June 16-19. Will players taking part in LIV’s London event be allowed to be in the field for the year’s third major championship?
LIV’s eight-event series will include seven regular-season tournaments and a team championship match-play finale at Trump Doral in Miami, Florida. Each tournament will be a 54-hole, no-cut team event, with the rosters being decided by a draft. The field will have a maximum of 48 players on 12 four-man teams for all eight events.
Norman and the LIV Golf Invitational Series are set to have purses of $20 million in individual prizes for each event, plus a hefty $5 million payout to the winning team. The total prize money for the eight-event series will be a whopping $255 million, according to LIV Golf Investments. All tournaments are funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which also recently dished out another $2 billion in funding for future endeavors.
The top three individuals from LIV’s eight events will split a $30 million bonus, while the championship in Miami will provide another opportunity for $50 million in total prizes Money talks, folks.
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