Dustin Johnson, the former world No 1 who committed himself to the PGA Tour in February, has been named in the field for the opening Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series event in Hertfordshire starting next week.
Johnson, 37, is the biggest previously-unreported name in the field, which does not include Phil Mickelson. The circuit, seen as a potential rival to the PGA Tour, became controversial for accepting financing from Saudi backers, with the Centurion Club event boasting a total prize fund of £20m and £3m to the winner.
Other notable names in the field include Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.
The PGA Tour did not grant its members a release to play in the event, which will be contested from June 9-11, opposite the Canadian Open.
Johnson – who won the Canadian Open in 2018 – and other members could face punishment for choosing the LIV Golf event without the Tour’s permission.
Speaking ahead of last month’s PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy said his stance towards those who want to play in the Saudi Golf League has softened and said the situation has become ‘toxic’
LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman said: “Free agency has finally come to golf.
“This is an opportunity to start a movement that will change the course of history by bringing new and open competition to the sport we all love.
Leading career earners on PGA Tour
“The desire shown by the players to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their emphatic belief in our model and confidence in what we’re building for the future.”
Johnson, who has dropped from third to No 13 in the world this year, is the highest-ranked player listed in the field.
The former world No 1 previously said in a statement that he was “fully committed to the PGA Tour”.
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However, following the announcement of his place in the field, Johnson’s manager David Winkle 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.”
Johnson was scheduled to play the RBC Canadian Open but instead opted to join the LIV event. On Twitter, the RBC Canadian Open said: “Together with our partners at RBC, we are disappointed to learn at this late stage that Dustin Johnson has made the decision to play the LIV Golf Event. As a past RBC Canadian Open champion, Canadian golf fans were looking forward to DJ’s return this year.”
While six-time major champion Mickelson did not feature on the field list, he could still tee up at the Centurion Club as six spots in the 48-player event remain open.
Mickelson had been linked to LIV Golf for months but has been on a self-imposed hiatus from the sport since February – even skipping his title defence at the PGA Championship – amid backlash over comments he made about the breakaway tour.
The 51-year-old Mickelson’s public image took a hit when the author of an unauthorised biography said the American golfer told him he was willing to look past Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to gain economic leverage over the PGA Tour.
Full list of players
Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat (Amateur)
Hennie Du Plessis
James Plot (Amateur)
Fitzpatrick: LIV Golf Series of ‘no interest’ for now
Matt Fitzpatrick said his future remains with the PGA ahead of this week’s Memorial Tournament, but he would have to re-evaluate if the LIV Series became the main tour.
“Tiger [Woods] made a great point at the PGA the other day in his press conference. He’s there to create legacies and to win tournaments and to win majors, and that’s kind of – that’s definitely where I am,” said Fitzpatrick.
“And it was interesting, it was kind of, you know, I’ll be honest, some tournaments where I’m maybe not necessarily in it, and I can’t win, then I do think, oh, you know, well, at least on the bright side I’ve made this much this week after the tournament’s over.
“I came away from the US PGA and literally couldn’t care less about how much I made that week. I was just gutted that I didn’t win. I had a chance and I didn’t take it, and that kind of said a lot to myself about myself. That’s all I’m bothered about out here.
“You want to have records. I want to win tournaments, and for me, that’s why for now, the sort of LIV Golf doesn’t interest me.”
However, the Englishman did not completely rule out a move and admitted if the tour were to become the top attraction, he would have to reassess where he would compete.
“In five years, if all of a sudden that becomes the main tour, then obviously you sort of rethink your options,” he said.
“But for now, yeah, I’m out here wanting to make sure I’m giving myself the best chance of winning tournaments, winning majors and going about my career like that, really.”
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