Dustin Johnson stuns golf world with shock LIV Championship defection

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·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
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Former top ranked golfer Dustin Johnson has shocked the golfing world by joining the breakaway LIV Championship. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Former top ranked golfer Dustin Johnson has shocked the golfing world by joining the breakaway LIV Championship. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)

Former World No.1 Dustin Johnson has shocked the golfing world after it was revealed he would be among a handful of top players competing in the breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The Saudi Arabian-backed LIV series has been heavily criticised as an attempt by the nation to detract from longstanding accusations of human rights abuses.

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Former Australian golfing star Greg Norman has been heavily involved in the formation of the series, which has attracted four Australian entrants for the first event in England next week - Matt Jones, Wade Ormsby, Blake Windred and Jed Morgan.

The mega-rich series boasts a massive $35 million prize pool, with the winner getting $5.5 million of the total winnings - adding up to more than double that on offer for the richest major.

Johnson represents the biggest draw the LIV Invitational has been able to attract to date, as debate rages over the merits over the controversial but lucrative series.

The American star is yet to comment on the news himself, but his agent David Winkle told Golf Channel it was too big of an opportunity to say no to.

"Dustin's been contemplating this for the past two years and decided it was in his and his family's best interest to pursue it," his agent said.

"He's never had any issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it's given him but in the end felt this was too compelling to pass up."

World No.13 Johnson, a two-time major champion, is the highest-ranked player in a field that currently includes 26 of the top 150 in the world.

However the event has attracted none of the world's current top-10 players.

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Norman has come in for strong criticism as CEO of LIV Golf, with critics slamming the mega-rich series as a means of "sports washing" for Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

But Norman preferred to couch it differently.

"Free agency has finally come to golf," Norman said in a statement.

"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.

"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."

Greg Norman has rejected suggestions LIV Golf is an attempt to improve the image of Saudi Arabia, after longrunning accusations of human rights abuses. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Greg Norman has rejected suggestions LIV Golf is an attempt to improve the image of Saudi Arabia, after longrunning accusations of human rights abuses. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Johnson and fellow major winners Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Graeme McDowell along with Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace, Kevin Na and Talor Gooch were among 42 players named by LIV Golf for what is to be a 48-man field for the $US25 million ($A35m) event, with the remaining six to be announced later.

Phil Mickelson, who stepped away from the game in February amid fallout from comments he made regarding the Saudi-backed league, was not listed in the field for the June 9-11 event at Centurion Club outside London.

The US PGA Tour and DP World Tours have said they will refuse to grant releases for players to take part in the event, with LIV Golf seen as a rival to the world's two biggest tours with its enormous budget.

It remains to be seen what that would mean for the likes of Jones, Ormsby plus the other established names who are on the PGA Tour or DP World Tour.

With AAP

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