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Former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson quits PGA tour

Former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson quits PGA tour

GOLF: Former world number one golfer Dustin Johnson confirmed yesterday (June 7) he has resigned his membership of the US PGA Tour as he prepares to play in the breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series.


Tuesday 7 June 2022, 06:10PM

Dustin Johnson. Photo: AFP

Dustin Johnson. Photo: AFP

Johnson was speaking at a press conference at Centurion Club, outside London, ahead of the opening event of the Saudi-backed breakaway tour, which starts tomorrow (June 9).

World number 15 Johnson said in February he was committed to playing on the US PGA Tour, which has refused releases for members to play in LIV Golf’s opener.

“I’m very thankful to the PGA Tour and everything that it’s done for me... but this is something I felt was best for me and my family and I’m very excited about playing,” he said.

Johnson said it was difficult to predict the consequences of his decision to play on the breakaway tour.

“Right now, I’ve resigned my membership from the Tour. I’m going to play here for now and that’s the plan,” he added.

Johnson’s announcement came a day after Phil Mickelson confirmed he too had signed up to play in the lucrative Saudi-backed tour.

The six-time major winner will be in the field of 48 at the controversial new tour’s inaugural event in London this week.

“I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start,” Mickelson wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.

Mickelson has not played since the publication of comments in February in which he criticised the PGA Tour and the Saudi backers of LIV Golf.

In an interview with author Alan Shipnuck, the 51-year-old American left-hander said the Saudi-funded LIV Golf was an opportunity to gain leverage over the PGA Tour.

However, Mickelson described the new venture’s backers as “scary” with a “horrible record on human rights.”

Mickelson, a 45-time winner on the PGA Tour, later issued an apology after his remarks were made public and said he would take some “desperately needed time away” from the sport.

He subsequently skipped both the Masters and the US PGA Championship during his self-imposed exile.

“Taking time away and self-reflecting has been very humbling,” Mickelson said. “I’ve been engaged and intentional in continued therapy and feel healthy and much more at peace. I realize I still have a long way to go but I am embracing the work ahead.”

During his absence, however, the rise of LIV Golf has continued to tear at the fabric of world golf, with dozens of household names joining the new tour.

This week’s event teeing off at Centurion Club at St Albans, north of London, will have a US$25 million purse (B861mn) - almost double that of any major, with $4mn going to the winner.

The Washington Post reported Monday that LIV Golf commissioner Greg Norman said 15-time major winner Tiger Woods turned down a “mind-blowingly enormous” overture by LIV.

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“We’re talking about high nine digits,” said Norman.

Woods said at last month’s PGA Championship he believed in the legacy of the US PGA Tour, citing its development by such icons as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Along with Mickelson and Johnson, other players include European Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Players opting into LIV Golf have done so despite warnings from the PGA Tour that they will face disciplinary action.

Grateful to have him’

Several PGA Tour golfers had requested releases to play this week’s LIV event, which clashes with the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open, but had been refused.

“I also intend to play the majors,” Mickelson said, potentially putting him on a collision course with the PGA and the R&A.

US Golf Association chief executive officer Mike Whan told The Golf Channel no decision has been made about qualified LIV Golf players taking part in next week’s US Open in suburban Boston, Mickelson being among several who have qualified.

Mickelson said he believed LIV Golf could have a “transformative” effect on the sport.

He also said it would allow him to change his lifestyle.

“It will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course,” Mickelson said.

“I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me.”

However, Mickelson added, “I fully realize and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I empathize with that.

“I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game.”

Mickelson, who became the oldest major winner at age 50 by capturing the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, won 45 career US PGA Tour titles and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation,” Norman said. “His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him.”

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