Former world number one golfer Dustin Johnson confirmed on Tuesday he has resigned his membership of the US PGA Tour to play in the breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series.
The decision effectively rules the American two-time major winner out of participating in the Ryder Cup, which pits the United States against Europe every two years.
Johnson was speaking at a press conference at Centurion Club, near London, ahead of the opening event of the Saudi-backed series, which starts on Thursday.
The world number 15 said in February he was committed to playing on the PGA Tour, which has refused releases for members to play in LIV Golf’s opener, which clashes with the Canadian Open.
But he has now quit, following a similar decision by veteran US golfer Kevin Na, who is also in the field for the event in St Albans.
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“I’m very thankful to the PGA Tour and everything that it’s done for me… but this is something I felt was best for me and my family and I’m very excited about playing,” said Johnson.
The 37-year-old, who is reportedly receiving $150 million in appearance fees to play in the series, said it was difficult to predict the consequences of his decision.
“Right now, I’ve resigned my membership from the Tour,” he added. “I’m going to play here for now and that’s the plan.”
“The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and it’s something that has definitely meant a lot to me,” added Johnson, who won all five of his matches in the United States’ record 19-9 win over Europe at Whistling Straits last year.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve played and represented my country and hopefully I will get a chance to do that again, but I don’t make the rules.”
The former Masters and US Open champion said he was exempt to play in the majors due to his record.
– Ryder Cup –
Graeme McDowell, whose Ryder Cup eligibility is tied to membership of the DP World Tour (European Tour) told the press conference he had not felt the need to resign from the PGA Tour, although he admitted he did not want to get involved in a “legal situation” with the organisation. “The players that are here this week have done a great amount for the Ryder Cup product and it would be a shame to see those guys not invited back,” said McDowell, who holed the winning putt at Celtic Manor in 2010. Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson confirmed on Monday he had also signed up to play in the inaugural LIV event in a major coup for the organisers.
Mickelson has not played since the publication of comments in February where he criticised the PGA Tour and LIV Golf’s Saudi backers.
Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are also among the 48-man field for the $25 million event at Centurion Club.
Players opting into LIV Golf have done so despite PGA Tour warnings of disciplinary action.
The DP World Tour has been more opaque than the PGA Tour, saying it is “evaluating each request on a case-by-case basis”.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series, which comprises eight tournaments this year, is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
Amnesty International has said the series is an example of Saudi Arabia attempting to “sportswash” its human rights record.
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