After much deliberation and repeated delays, the field for the first LIV Golf Invitational has finally been released, and there are some surprises: Dustin Johnson is in. Sergio Garcia is in. And for now, 40 others.
A list of 42 players was announced Tuesday — notably six shy of the promised 48 players for the event — just nine days before the first round of the event, which will take place at Centurion Club outside of London. It is the first of eight LIV events scheduled for 2022, five in the United States and three international, which will compete both directly and indirectly with the PGA Tour.
Johnson’s inclusion is somewhat surprising as three months ago he pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour in a statement. “Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour,” the statement read. “Much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf. I feel is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully-committed to the PGA Tour.” His stance didn’t seem to change at all in previous months, though he did offer a slightly different thought during the PGA Championship two weeks ago:
“I mean, I think golf is in a good spot, and I think what [LIV Golf is] doing is — could potentially be good for the game of golf. I’m excited to see what happens here in a few weeks,” Johnson said.
“Excited meaning?” a reporter asked.
“I’ll be watching,” Johnson said.
Garcia’s inclusion is far less surprising. Just a few weeks ago he was caught on camera berating a PGA Tour rules official, saying “I can’t wait to leave this tour.” Other notables include Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na and Talor Gooch.
Absent, for the moment at least, is Phil Mickelson, who has long been rumored to be involved with the league, but who has taken a leave of absence in recent months. Comments that Mickelson made about the PGA Tour in a recently published book drew widespread backlash, and even scorn from fellow Tour players. Mickelson skipped the Masters and even the PGA Championship, where he was defending champion. When he plans to play, both in LIV Golf events or on the PGA Tour, remains to be seen.
The event will move forward starting Tuesday of next week, with 12 captains selecting players in a snake-style draft. Wednesday will feature a pro-am, with the first of three rounds beginning with a shotgun start on Thursday afternoon, the first day open to spectators. The event will offer a purse of $25 million, $20 million of which will be awarded for individual performances, and the remaining being dished out among the top three teams. The last-place finisher will earn $120,000.
The huge payouts — the largest single-event purse in golf history — have been the calling card for both the event and the LIV Golf series, which are both funded by the deep pockets of the Public Investment Fund of the Saudi Arabian government. It is that connection, paired with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, that has made the series controversial.
Largely, the best players in the world have shunned the league, pledging their allegiance to the PGA Tour. But, as ever, allegiance seems to be fluid. At one point, before Mickelson’s comments, LIV Golf seemed prepared to announce a field that included top 10 players. But the Mickelson backlash was so severe that numerous players wavered, according to reports. Now, the full list is out there.
To this point, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has not entertained the idea that Tour members could compete in LIV Golf events and PGA Tour events, which will overlap at various points the rest of the calendar year. For example, the London event will be staged at the same time as the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open. Tour players who wished to play in London were required, by Tour regulation, to apply for a release to play in an event held the same time as a Tour competition. Though those releases have historically been approved, this time they were not.
“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations,” said Tyler Dennis, a Tour vice president wrote in a memo. “As such, Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event under our Regulations.
“As a membership organization, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the Tour and its players.”
It is clear how the PGA Tour feels about LIV, and it is now much more apparent how various players do, too.
Check out the entire list of players committed below:
Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat (Amateur)
Hennie Du Plessis
James Piot (Amateur)