RBC sponsor Dustin Johnson ‘extremely disappointed’ with move to LIV Golf

RBC sponsor Dustin Johnson ‘extremely disappointed’ with move to LIV Golf

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The unexpected inclusion of Dustin Johnson on the list of 42 golfers who will compete in LIV Golf’s inaugural event has drawn apparent ire from a major sponsor. Following the lineup unveiling on Tuesday night, Royal Bank of Canada released a statement in which it refrained from specifically cutting ties with the two-time major winner, but said it was “extremely disappointed” with the decision. of Johnson.

“RBC is a proud partner of the PGA Tour. Our partnership is rooted in two world-class golf tournaments — the RBC Heritage and the RBC Canadian Open. The PGA Tour has been clear on its intentions under its tournament rules if a golfer chooses to play in an off-tour tournament, including the LIV Golf Invitational Series,” RBC said in a statement.

“We were recently informed that Dustin Johnson has made the decision to play Game 1 of the LIV Golf Invitational Series. DJ has been a valued member of the RBC team since 2018. While we are extremely disappointed with his decision, we wish him well.

RBC has sponsored Johnson since 2018 and he was scheduled to compete in the RBC Canadian Open, which begins June 9 and takes place the same weekend as LIV Golf’s launch event. Johnson won the Canadian Open in 2018 and tournament organizers said in a statement, they “are disappointed to learn at this late stage” that Johnson will skip this year’s tournament, the first since 2019.

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, is another RBC golfer who will be competing in LIV Golf.

Johnson and McDowell’s names were among 42 made public on Tuesday by organizers of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which kicks off at the Centurion Club outside London from June 9-11. Each of the eight events scheduled for this year is expected to have 48 players competing for lucrative purses over 54-hole formats with team competitions, shotgun tee times and no cuts.

In part because of the Saudi regime’s heavy investment, as well as threats of punishment from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan – particularly after the publication of inflammatory comments from Phil Mickelson in February – most of the big names on the PGA Tour had tightened their grips. rows behind the circuit workbench. At that time, Johnson released a statement in which he said he was “fully committed to the PGA Tour.”

Ahead of May’s PGA Championship, Johnson was asked about LIV Golf’s stated interest in luring him and his vision for the “crossroads” the sport could reach with a potential PGA Tour rival.

“I mean, I think golf is in a good place,” Johnson replied. He said he thought LIV Golf’s involvement “could potentially be good for the game of golf.”

After Johnson added that he was “excited to see what’s going to be here in a few weeks,” he was asked what he meant by “excited.”

“I’ll look,” he said.

Assuming Johnson attends the London event, he’ll give LIV Golf not just a star jolt, but its highest-ranked player as well. The 37-year-old American is No. 13 in the world rankings.

“Dustin has considered the opportunity from time to time over the past two years. Ultimately, he decided it was in his best interest and that of his family to pursue it,” Johnson’s agent said. , David Winkle, in a statement (via The Associated Press).

“Dustin has never had a problem with the PGA Tour and is grateful for everything it has given him,” Winkle continued, “but in the end he felt it was too compelling to pass up. “

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The only other player in the top 20 on the list is Louis Oosthuizen, a South African who won the 2010 British Open and is ranked No. 20 in the world. As expected, many other big names in the LIV Golf field were European, including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Kevin Na and Talor Gooch, who feature in the top 35, are other notable Americans who will join Johnson in England.

Not on the list was Mickelson, who went into exile after the firestorm over his comments. He hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since late January and missed this year’s Masters, for the first time since 1994, and the PGA Championship, where he was the 2021 champion.

Mickelson could be one of six players yet to be announced for the pitch in England. His manager said in April that Mickelson had requested a release from the PGA Tour to play in the event.

In May, however, the PGA Tour denied releases to all of its players seeking an opportunity to compete in the inaugural LIV Golf event. “As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players,” the organization said in a memo.

Last year, Monahan reportedly threatened players with immediate and potentially lengthy suspensions if they joined the Saudi-backed venture. Greg Norman, an avid golfer who runs the series’ organizing company, responded in February by threatening Monahan with legal action if the commissioner tried to follow through on such penalties. After the PGA Tour refused to issue waivers for the opening tournament, Norman reportedly sent players a letter stating that “LIV Golf has your back and will defend and assist you if either tour [including the top European circuit] tries to act against your interests and the progress of the sport.

In a statement on Tuesday, Norman proclaimed that “free will has finally arrived in golf.”

“This is an opportunity to launch a movement that will change the course of history by bringing new and open competition to the sport we all love,” he continued. “The desire shown by players to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their adamant belief in our model and their confidence in what we are building for the future.”

Other notable names in the inaugural field include 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, former US Open and PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer, Branden Grace and Bernd Wiesberger.

Choosing Johnson and other players to compete in the event will test the resolve of Monahan and the PGA Tour. As of Tuesday night, the PGA Tour had yet to comment on the London field announcement.

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