Dustin Johnson’s sponsor RBC is “extremely disappointed” with his move to LIV Golf


Dustin Johnson's sponsor RBC is "extremely disappointed" with his move to LIV Golf

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The unexpected addition of Dustin Johnson to the list of 42 golfers set to play at LIV Golf’s inaugural event has drawn the apparent ire of a major sponsor. After the lineup was unveiled Tuesday night, the Royal Bank of Canada issued a statement not specifically cutting ties with the two-time grand prize winner, but saying it was “extremely disappointed” by Johnson’s decision.

“RBC is a proud partner of the PGA Tour. Our partnership is anchored in two world-class golf tournaments – the RBC Heritage and the RBC Canadian Open. The PGA Tour has made clear its intentions, in accordance with its tournament regulations, should a golfer choose to compete in any non-Tour tournament, including the LIV Golf Invitational Series,” RBC said in a statement.

“It was recently brought to our attention that Dustin Johnson made the decision to play the opener of the LIV Golf Invitational Series. DJ has been a valued RBC team member since 2018. Although we are very disappointed with his decision, we wish him all the best.”

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

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, is another RBC golfer set to play at the LIV golf event.

Johnson and McDowell’s names were among 42 released Tuesday by organizers of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which will tee off June 9-11 at the Centurion Club outside London. At each of the eight events scheduled this year, 48 players will compete in lucrative purses across 54-hole formats featuring team competition, shotgun starts and no-cuts.

In part due to heavy investment by the Saudi regime, as well as threats of penalties from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan – particularly after inflammatory comments by Phil Mickelson were released in February – most of the PGA Tour’s top names had closed circuit behind the incumbents. At the time, Johnson issued a statement saying he was “fully committed to the PGA Tour.”

Ahead of the PGA Championship in May, Johnson was asked about LIV Golf’s alleged interest in attracting him and how he assessed 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 thinks LIV Golf’s involvement “could be potentially good for the game of golf”.

After Johnson added that he was “excited to see what’s happening here in a couple of weeks,” he was asked what he meant by “excited.”

“I’ll watch,” he said.

Assuming Johnson plays at the London event, he will not only bring a boost of star power to LIV Golf, but also its top-ranked player. The 37-year-old American is number 13 in the world rankings.

“Dustin has thought about this opportunity off and on for the last several years. Ultimately, he decided it was in his own interest and those of his family to pursue it,” Johnson’s agent David Winkle said in a statement (via Associated Press).

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

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The only other top 20 player on the list is Louis Oosthuizen, a South African who won the British Open in 2010 and is ranked 20th in the world. As expected, many of the other big names in LIV Golf’s field were Europeans, including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Other notable Americans set to join Johnson in England include Kevin Na and Talor Gooch, who are in the top 35.

Not on the list was Mickelson, who is in self-imposed exile after the firestorm for his comments. He has not played on the PGA Tour since late January and has sat at this year’s Masters for the first time since 1994 and the PGA Championship, where he became champion in 2021.

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

However, in May, the PGA Tour denied clearance to any players looking for a way to play the first LIV Golf event. “As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interests of the PGA Tour and its players,” the organization said in a memo.

Monahan reportedly last year threatened players with immediate and potentially lengthy suspension if they joined the Saudi-backed company. Greg Norman, a great golfer who runs the company that organizes the series, responded in February by threatening legal action against Monahan if the commissioner tried to enforce such penalties. After the PGA Tour refused to issue waivers for the inaugural tournament, Norman reportedly sent players a letter claiming that “LIV Golf has your back and will defend and support you on both tours [including the top European circuit] trying to act against your interests and against the progress of the sport.”

In a statement Tuesday, Norman proclaimed, “The freedom of choice has finally arrived in the Gulf.”

“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,” he continued. “Players’ desire to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their strong belief in our model and confidence in what we are building for the future.”

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

Johnson’s and other players’ choice to attend the event will test the resolve of Monahan and the PGA Tour. As of Tuesday evening, the PGA Tour had yet to comment on the London field’s announcement.

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