Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter part of 42 confirmed for $25m LIV Golf tournament
"Free agency has finally come to golf."
So crowed Greg Norman after 42 golfers were confirmed for the opening tournament on the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.
The breakaway golf league, which will compete with more established tours, such as PGA, European and Asian, is putting up serious prize-funds to lure top golfers away, with $25 million to be shared out between 48 competing golfers at the LIC Golf Invitational.
The tournament will take place at the Centurion Club, just outside London, from June 9 to 11 and the money going to the golfers is coming from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund [PIF].
While the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Scottie Scheffler, Tiger Woods and recent US PGA champion Justin Thomas are not taking part, the 'invitational' has attract some decent golfers, even if many of them are past their prime.
Former world number one, and two-time major winner, Dustin Johnson is the highest profile name to sign on for the "compelling" event.
Dustin Johnson, currently ranked 13th in the world, released a public statement pledging his commitment to the PGA Tour, two months ago, but has had a change of heart.
Also set to compete at Centurion Club are Ryder Cup 'Team Europe' stars Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. South Africans Charl Schawrtzel and Louis Oosthuizen are other notable names, but the current field is hardly a blockbuster.
LIV Golf announces field for first event in London next week. Among the big names: Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Talor Gooch. Not listed: Phil Mickelson. pic.twitter.com/AUlcFD5oS4
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) June 1, 2022
Still room for six more LIV Golf debutants
"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," declared for major winner Greg Norman, who has acted as the public face, and spokesperson, for LIV Golf in recent months.
"The desire shown by the players to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their emphatic belief in our model and confidence in what we're building for the future."
The PGA and Europe-based DP World Tour have both spoken out against such a breakaway competition, as have high-profile golfers like Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. There have been reports that any golfer that competes in a LIV Golf event may be barred from rejoining the PGA or DP tours, but that remains to be seen.
What may well happen is that golfers that opt for LIV events over the established tours may see themselves excluded from Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup showcases.
There are still six spots in that opening tournament field to be filled. Organisers may be holding off on bigger names, to get some extra publicity and push for the event, or negotiations with other golfers could be ongoing.
It remains to be seen if Phil Mickelson, who withdrew from defending his US PGA title, earlier this month, will tee up at Centurion Club, next weekend. No host broadcaster for the event has been confirmed yet, either.
Earlier this month, Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK's head of campaigns, said LIV Golf was another example of the "sportswashing" of Saudi Arabia's human rights record. He commented:
"The [Saudi] regime's human rights record is an abomination - from its murder of [journalist] Jamal Khashogg,i to recent mass executions and the situation for LGBTI+ people, which continues to be dire.
"The LIV Golf Invitational Series is yet one more event in a series of sportswashing exercises that the Saudi authorities are using to clean its blood-soaked image."
The UK opener for the invitational series is the first of seven planned events - four in the United States, one in Thailand and one in Saudi Arabia - with a $25m [€23.3m] prize fund for each.
The winner of each invitational would pocket $4m [€3.75m]. To put that into perspective, Collin Morikawa won $2m [€1.87m] when he claimed The Open in the summer of 2021.