Two-time major winner Bubba Watson is reportedly set to become the latest PGA star to defect from the PGA Tour and join the controversial Saudi government-financed LIV Golf Series.
An official announcement of Watson’s addition to the LIV roster is expected this weekend, according to the UK-based outlet The Telegraph, while LIV Golf is staging its second U.S.-based event at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, which began Friday.
Demonstrators have gathered outside Bedminster this week to protest the event, citing Saudi Arabia’s purported human rights violations and connections to 9/11.
Watson has long been rumored to be interested in defecting to the breakaway league, actually appearing in early LIV Golf promos before being quickly removed. He will make his debut for LIV at The International in Boston over Labor Day Weekend, which boasts a $20 million prize pot, according to the Telegraph.
The 43-year-old Watson is believed to be receiving a fee of more than $50 million to join LIV.
A 12-time winner on the PGA Tour who peaked at No.2 in the world rankings seven years ago, Watson is currently down to No.86. He has not played since late May due to a torn meniscus, forcing him to sit out the season’s last two majors, the US Open and Open.
Watson has only one top-five finish over the last two PGA Tour campaigns, which came at the Saudi International in February when he finished second. He has recently shown that he can still shoot low numbers, shooting a seven-under 63 in the second round of the PGA Championship in May, despite playing with an injured knee.
By defecting to the Saudi-backed league, Watson joins numerous other former PGA stars, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, and more.
The PGA has responded by suspending some defectors, while others have chosen to resign their memberships to avoid banishment. Watson is expected to be handed an indefinite ban by the PGA.
Those who joined LIV are still permitted to compete in majors as they fall outside the jurisdiction of the PGA Tour.
Meanwhile, LIV Golf announced an expanded 2023 schedule that will feature 14 events, up from 12 events this year.
The full 2023 LIV Golf schedule will be announced at a later date, but it is expected to include tournaments across North and Latin America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe. The 14 tournaments will have a combined prize pot of $405 million.