Dustin Johnson headlines field at first Saudi-backed LIV Golf event

Dustin Johnson is apparently ready to jump ship from the PGA Tour.

Johnson was listed in the field at the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event next week, the controversial Greg Norman run league announced Tuesday night.

"Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years," Johnson's agent told The Action Network. "Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family's best interest to pursue it. Dustin has never had any 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."

In total, 42 players were announced in the field at the first event at the Centurion Club in London, which is set to kick off June 9. Among those listed are: Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Martin Kaymer, Chase Koepka, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Lee Westwood.

Phil Mickelson, who has not played since his comments about the Saudi Arabian government and this league, was not listed.

The announcement with Johnson comes as a surprise, considering he distanced himself from the Saudi-backed league earlier this year and said he was "fully committed" to the PGA Tour.

“I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour,” Johnson said in February. “I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family.

“While there will always be areas where our Tour can improve and evolve, I am thankful for our leadership and the many sponsors who make the PGA Tour golf’s premier tour.”

Johnson, 37, has won 24 times on the PGA Tour in his career, most recently at the 2020 Masters, which marked his second major championship win. He’s currently ranked No. 13 in the world. He has won the Saudi International twice, most recently in 2021.

Johnson missed the cut at the PGA Championship earlier this month.

“Free agency has finally come to golf," Norman said in a statement. "This is an opportunity to start a movement that will change the course of history by bringing new and open competition to the sport we all love. The desire shown by the players to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their emphatic belief in our model and confidence in what we’re building for the future. We couldn’t be happier at the diversity of our field, featuring players from around the world including major champions and those making their debut."

What will the PGA Tour do?

It’s unclear what PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will do as a result of the departures of Johnson and others, but he’s not going to be happy.

Monahan has been against the LIV Golf league from the beginning, and even threatened golfers with the permanent loss of their Tour card if they compete in the Saudi-backed league. PGA Tour players are required to get a release in order to play in conflicting events, something it denied earlier this month.

The first event is set to take place opposite of the RBC Canadian Open. RBC issued a statement Tuesday night.

“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, via golf reporter Adam Stanley. “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.”

Even if Monahan prohibits Johnson and others from playing in PGA Tour events, they should still be allowed to compete in the four major championships each season — as those are operated outside of the PGA Tour.

Dustin Johnson of the United States
Dustin Johnson is apparently ready to jump ship to the Saudi Arabian-backed golf league. (Maddie Meyer/PGA of America/Getty Images )