Phil Mickelson has joined Dustin Johnson at the top of the list of PGA Tour players who will compete in the opening event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series beginning Thursday at Centurion Golf Club in London.
Mickelson, Johnson and the other established players who compete in the event face disciplinary action from the PGA Tour, but it’s unclear if the United States Golf Association will allow them to play in the 122nd U.S. Open next week at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
“We pride ourselves in being the most open championship in the world, with roughly half our field securing their position via local/regional qualifiers,” the USGA said in a statement. “However, we reserve the right, as we always have, to review any competitor’s situation on a case-by-case basis.”
Thee 51-year-old Mickelson, who has won six major championships and needs only a U.S. Open title to complete the Career Grand Slam, has not played since tying for 18th in the Saudi International in February. He reportedly signed a $200-million contract with LIV.
Lefty, who won the PGA Championship last year, created a major controversy when he revealed that he was involved in the formation of the LIV, and among the tournaments he skipped were the Players Championship, the Masters and his title defense in the PGA Championship.
“Taking time away and self-reflecting has been very humbling,” Mickelson, who has finished second in the U.S. Open six times, said in a statement. “I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at the stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, by ideally for my game and my peers.”
Johnson claimed his loyalty to the PGA Tour several months ago, but apparently changed his mind when he reportedly was offered a signing bonus that might be worth $125 million.
The LIV series includes seven three-round, 54-hole tournaments with fields of 48 players and no cuts, and also will include a team component. An eighth event that will be played in a team format will be added and the total purse for the series is $255 million.
“Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years,” Johnson’s agent, David Winkle said in a statement. “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.”
Other PGA Tour players listed in the LIV field this week include major champions Sergio Garcia of Spain, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Martin Kaymer of Germany.
Also playing are Lee Westwood of England, Kevin Na of Diamond Bar, Hudson Swafford, Talor Gooch, Matt Jones of Australia, Ian Poulter of England, Brandon Grace of South Africa, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, Chase Koepka, Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, Sam Horsfield of England, Peter Uihlein and Richard Bland of England.
Johnson and Na have resigned from the PGA Tour.
They know what they are risking.
“As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.”
Johnson and McDowell already have lost their sponsorships with the Royal Bank of Canada ahead of the RBC Canadian Open, this week’s PGA Tour event at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada.
Tiger Woods reportedly turned down a lucrative nine-figure offer from LIV, while golf legend Jack Nicklaus said he turned down a large offer to be the LIV commissioner, a job that was taken by former Australian star Greg Norman.