Dustin Johnson will be playing in the first event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, backed by the Saudi government.
Just a few months ago, Johnson had said that he was "fully committed to the PGA Tour."
With his inclusion in the LIV Golf field, Johnson's PGA Tour future is now up in the air.
After two years of speculation and months of mounting drama in the golf world, the LIV Golf Invitational Series finally looks like it will have a real tournament.
LIV Golf, financially backed by the Saudi government and led by CEO Greg Norman, will host its first event next week, outside of London. LIV Golf is set to host eight total events this year, with a total pool of $255 million in prize money up for grabs, in addition to the unpublicized, outright fees players have been paid to join the new breakaway league.
On Tuesday night, LIV Golf released a list of 42 players that would be taking part in the first event, headlined by former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who has 24 PGA Tour wins, including two major championships.
Johnson's inclusion on the LIV Golf roster came as something of a surprise, as just a few months ago, he had pledged loyalty to the PGA Tour.
In February, as talk of the breakaway league was raising tensions across the golf world in the wake of Phil Mickelson's publicized comments about the Saudi government, Johnson put out what appeared to be a clear-cut statement.
"I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour," Johnson said at the time. "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."
Between then and now, something apparently changed, as Johnson is now set to tee it up in the new league.
"Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years," Johnson's agent David Winkle wrote in a statement on Tuesday night. "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."
Johnson will not be jumping to the new league alone; several prominent (though, notably less prominent than him) players were also announced in the LIV Golf lineup, including Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na, and Lee Westwood.
One name that was notably absent from the list, however, was Phil Mickelson, whose comments on the Saudi government created a storm of controversy surrounding LIV Golf and prompted Johnson's initial backtrack to the PGA Tour.
Mickelson has not played a competitive round since his comments were made public. That said, six empty slots remain in the 48-man field of the opening LIV Golf event, and it's not impossible to imagine that Mickelson will take one of those spots if he is feeling up to play.
With the field set, the golf world can finally move forward and see what exactly might come next.
The PGA Tour denied players exemptions to play in the inaugural LIV Golf event, meaning those that make the jump could face discipline should they attempt to return, either in the form of suspensions or even a lifetime ban.
Whether such punishments would hold up are another story, and Norman and LIV Golf have said their legal team is prepared to take the PGA Tour to court in support of players that want to participate in the new league.
Plenty of questions still remain on how exactly the LIV Golf events will play out through their inaugural year. As things stand, the upstart league does not have a broadcast deal in the United States and plans to present next week's event on YouTube.
Further, it's unclear if the players set to take part in this first event have signed on to a longer term deal with the project. Undoubtedly, LIV Golf hopes to attract more star players as its season continues, but with a format that caps at 48 players, someone would have to be kicked off the roster in order to make room for an addition. Given the PGA Tour's stance on players who have signed up with LIV Golf, where would that leave those that made the field of 48 for this event but may be left off the invite list next time around?
Thankfully, with the new league finally set to begin play, these questions are about to go from theoretical to actual.
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