Breakaway tournament organisers LIV Golf have deep pockets – and they paid golf superstar Dustin Johnson plenty to break away from the PGA Tour.
Dustin Johnson’s flip-flop came with a heavy price tag.
The Telegraph in the UK is reporting that LIV Golf, the upstart golf league backed by the Saudi government and fronted by Greg Norman that is seeking to disrupt the PGA Tour, paid Johnson “around” £100 million — or about $174 million — to join their series.
Big bucks are certainly in play. Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus recently said that he was offered “something in excess of $100 million” USD to head up the league. That role eventually went to Norman.
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RBC (Royal Bank of Canada), one of Johnson’s primary sponsors, cut ties with the golfer and announced it was “very disappointed” with his decision to play in the circuit.
“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 bank said in a statement. “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.”
The 37-year-old Johnson, who is married to Paulina Gretzky, won the 2016 U.S. Open and the 2020 Masters.
Among other golfers in the Saudi Golf League’s June event outside London are Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell and Talor Gooch.
Phil Mickelson caused major uproar earlier this year when he downplayed human rights concerns associated with competing in the league.
“They’re scary motherf – kers to get involved with,” Mickelson told his biographer Alan Shipnuck in February. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson, who also ripped the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” over the amount of money that is not distributed to golfers, faced what amounted to a several-month shadow ban from the PGA Tour after the remarks.
Wednesday, the PGA Tour issued a statement saying that members have “not been authorized to participate” in the Saudi Golf League’s event, and are subject to thus-far-unspecified “disciplinary action.”
This story originally appeared in the NY Post and is reproduced with permission.
Originally published as Rebel Saudi golf league paid superstar Johnson ‘around $175m’ for shock defection