LIV pro jabs PGA Tour commissioner. Then things got really confusing
On Sunday evening, close watchers of the professional game might have paused when they saw quotes critical of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan attributed to LIV golfer Dustin Johnson.
“We don’t give a damn how he feels,” the Australian Associated Press reported Johnson saying of Monahan, after Johnson’s team, the 4Aces, won the LIV team event in Australia. “We know how he feels about us, so it’s mutual.”
When the report surfaced, it seemed odd that Johnson would take such a pointed shot at the Tour. In the months following his departure for LIV, Johnson has avoided speaking ill of the Tour or its leadership, lending only that he felt his decision came down to money and a lighter playing schedule. (Johnson reportedly received a $100 million signing bonus with the new league.)
And, indeed, by Monday morning in the U.S., it had become clear there was a problem: Johnson said he didn’t deliver the dig.
In a statement to the media Monday morning, Johnson’s agent, David Winkle, wrote, “I spoke with Dustin from Singapore this morning at which time he emphatically denied making any such statement. He elaborated by saying his actual response to the question was ‘no comment.'”
LIV spokesperson Jane MacNeille backed up Johnson’s assertion, saying on Twitter that the quote actually originated with Johnson’s teammate, Pat Perez, whose stance toward his former employers has been, well, slightly less collegial since joining LIV.
Perez’s remark is not in the transcript of the 4Aces’ post-round interview.
While it’s naturally important to both Johnson and his representation that he be quoted correctly, it’s notable that he went as far as to publicly correct the record. Johnson’s approach toward the Tour has remained friendlier than many of his LIV counterparts, some of whom have wasted few opportunities to slam the Tour. In the aftermath of the great pro-golf schism, Johnson remains one of the few LIV players to remain in the good graces of many of his former PGA Tour competitors, including Rory McIlroy, who told reporters at the Masters that he harbors no ill-will toward Johnson.
Some of that has to do with Johnson’s stature — he has long been one of the Tour’s better-liked players — and some of it has to do with his rationale for joining the new league, which he’s said was driven more by logic than emotion.
“The decision to join LIV, I mean it finally just came down to the offer that they made me,” he told Netflix’s Full Swing. “For me it was playing less, making more money. Pretty simple.”
It’s possible, if not likely, that Johnson’s approach is rooted primarily in his desire to keep to his relationships in good standing with some of the Tour’s best players. But it’s also possible there could be a larger reason, too.
In his statement, Johnson’s agent reiterated a point that Johnson himself has made repeatedly over the last 12 months.
“Dustin remains grateful for his time on the PGA Tour and has the utmost respect for Commissioner Monahan,” he said.