More than a dozen PGA Tour players are included in the field for the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event, scheduled for next week outside London.
LIV Golf released the list of 42 players in the field on Tuesday night, May 31. It includes longtime PGA Tour players Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, and Lee Westwood, who were all expected to be part of the field.
Not expected was the inclusion of Dustin Johnson, who had previously affirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour.
Back in February, things looked dire for the LIV Golf series. Phil Mickelson faced criticism for comments about the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” and Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Several major PGA stars, such as Bryson DeChambeau, publicly committed to not joining the rival tour.
Johnson was among the players who publicly stated in February they would not be involved with LIV Golf.
“Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour, much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf,” Johnson said. “I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour. I am grateful for the opportunity to play the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family.”
Johnson, whose 24 PGA Tour victories include wins at the 2016 U.S. Open and 2020 Masters, has flipped his opinion since then. His agent, David Winkle, released a statement on Tuesday.
“Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years,” Winkle wrote. “Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it. Dustin has never had an 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 initial list does not feature Mickelson, who has been at the center of controversies surrounding the Saudi-backed tour since the very beginning. Mickelson skipped the PGA Championship last month, and many believed his absence indicated he would be playing in London next week. However, he is not on the list of participants as of yet.
LIV Golf had previously said its events would include 48 players competing in 12 teams of four. Only 42 players were announced Tuesday, with the final six spots set to be filled by players invited by CEO Greg Norman and qualifiers from an Asian Tour event. Mickelson could still be one of the last six players to be added.
PGA Tour players had to request a release from the PGA Tour to compete in the first LIV Golf tournament, scheduled for June 9-11, since it conflicts with PGA’s Canadian Open. Mickelson was among the players who requested a release.
On May 10, the PGA denied all requests for conflicting-event releases for its players to compete in the London event. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said players could face discipline, including potential suspensions or lifetime bans, if they defy the denied requests.
“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, the two-time Open winner, former No.1 player, and CEO of the LIV Series financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, called the PGA Tour’s decision not to grant releases to its players “anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive.”
“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. “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.”
The LIV series will feature eight events, five of which will be in the U.S. The second LIV event is scheduled for June 30–July 2 in Portland, Oregon. The championship match-play finale for the LIV series will be at Trump National Doral Miami from October 27 to 30.
Prize money for the eight events combined will total $255 million. The seven regular-season tournaments will each have purses of $25 million, the highest purse totals in all of golf.
After the seven regular-season events, the top three individuals who play in a minimum of four events will also share a $30 million prize. The season-ending team match-play championship will provide another $50 million in prizes.