Dustin Johnson has arrived at the LIV Golf Invitational, and in doing so, he has joined the ranks of PGA Tour stars who have resigned their Tour membership.
Johnson said so Tuesday morning during the first set of press conferences at Centurion Club, the host for this week’s first-ever LIV Golf event, just north of London.
“At this time it’s hard to speak on what the consequences will be, but for right now I resigned my membership from the Tour,” Johnson said. “I’m going to play here, you know, for now. That’s the plan. What the consequences will be, obviously I can’t comment on how the Tour’s going to handle.”
And how about the major championships?
“I can’t answer for the majors, but hopefully they’re going to allow us to play. Obviously, I’m exempt for the majors, so I plan on playing there, unless I hear otherwise.”
Johnson joins Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, who have all announced or been reported by the AP to resign their membership from the Tour, essentially waiving the status they’ve earned, the currency by which they enter Tour events and benefit from the perks of membership.
Johnson is correct about his exemption into the majors, which will last through at least 2025, since he won the 2020 Masters. Phil Mickelson, who also joined the LIV Golf series, is exempt just as long, and as a former champion of all but one major, will likely be able to compete in those events as long as he pleases so long as LIV Golf players are not banned by the majors.
It remains unclear how each of the major championships — which are managed by different governing bodies — will react to some of the game’s best players ditching the PGA Tour. We’ll likely find out next week at the U.S. Open at Brookline in Massachusetts. For now, Johnson voiding his PGA Tour membership also voids his membership to the PGA of America, which was acquired by his membership to the Tour. And without being a member of the Tour and the PGA of America, Johnson will not be allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, which takes place later this year, in September. Speaking broadly last year, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said, “If someone wants to play on a Ryder Cup for the U.S., they’re going to need to be a member of the PGA of America, and they get that membership through being a member of the Tour.”
Johnson was asked if having the Ryder Cup taken away from him was “a big decision.”
“It was,” Johnson said. “But hopefully, obviously, all things are subject to change. I would just have to agree with what Graeme [McDowell] said. Hopefully at some point it’ll change and we’ll be able to participate. If it doesn’t, it was another thing I had to really thing long and hard about. Ultimately, I decided to come do this and play out there. Like I said, I’m excited about it and obviously the Ryder Cup is unbelievable and something that’s meant a lot to me. Proud to say I’ve played and represented my country. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that again, but I don’t make the rules.”
Of all the players taking part in the LIV Golf series, Johnson likely held the greatest impact on the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. He has played on nine different American teams, missing just once in the last 10 iterations, only when he was taking a leave of absence from the Tour. Oosthuizen, who joined Johnson on stage during a 4-person press conference, is the next biggest player commitment with Presidents Cup meaning. He has played for the International side in the last four Cups, and was slated to play an integral role in this year’s team.
Oddly enough, the person Johnson cited in his answer above, Graeme McDowell, has not resigned his membership to the PGA Tour. Mickelson, as well, has not done so.
“I worked really hard to earn that lifetime membership,” Mickelson told Sports Illustrated Monday afternoon. “And I’m hopeful that I’ll have the ability to play wherever I want, where it’s the PGA Tour, LIV or wherever else I want.”