Dustin Johnson Joins Saudi-Backed Tour, Risks Being Banned By PGA Tour
Dustin Johnson and his wife Paulina Gretzky walk up No. 1 during the Par 3 Contest at the 2016 Masters Tournament on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. (Photo by
Charles Laberge/Augusta National via Getty Images

You wanna be the greatest golfer in the world, try your luck on the U.S. Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tour.

You wanna make bank, join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

That’s what Dustin Johnson, already one of golf’s richest players, is doing, and it’s making waves.

Johnson, the No. 13 world-ranked player who has won two majors,  is the highest-ranked player to join the LIV series, which includes at least 26 of the top 150 players in the world, including Johnson.

Many other top golfers are set to play in the LIV Invitational, including Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuiszen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, and Talor Gooch.

But Johnson “has not been granted permission to leave and may now face a ban from the [PGA] tour,” the Daily Mail reports.

“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 his manager, David Winkle, according to the Mail. “‘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.”

The PGA will be holding its own tournament at the same time as the LIV event at the Centurion Club in London next weekend, and therein lies the problem. The PGA Tour “has threatened players with potential suspensions or even banishment as punishments for playing in the LIV events. Johnson’s decision will put those threats to the test, given his lofty status in the sport,” the New York Post reported.

Former PGA No. 1 Greg Norman, CEO of the LIV Series, 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. 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,” Norman said.

But Johnson is already angering sponsors over his decision.

“RBC (Royal Bank of Canada), one of Johnson’s more notable sponsors, released a statement that hinted they were cutting ties with the 2020 Masters champ,” the Post reported.

“RBC is a proud partner of the PGA Tour. Our partnership is anchored with two world-class golf tournaments—the RBC Heritage and the RBC Canadian Open,” the statement read. “The PGA Tour has been clear about its intentions in accordance with its tournament regulations should a golfer choose to play in a tournament outside the tour, including the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

“We were recently made aware that Dustin Johnson made the decision to play the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener. DJ has been a valued RBC team member since 2018. While we are extremely disappointed in his decision, we wish him well.”

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.

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