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Dustin Johnson is leaving the PGA Tour to play in breakaway series

DustinJohnson

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images via AFP

Former world number one Dustin Johnson confirmed Tuesday he has relinquished his US PGA Tour membership to compete in the Saudi Arabia-sponsored Breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The decision effectively bars America’s two-time Major winner from participating in the Ryder Cup, which pits the United States against Europe every two years.

Johnson spoke at a press conference at the Centurion Club, near London, ahead of the series’ opening event, which begins on Thursday.

The world No. 15 had said in February he was determined to play on the PGA Tour, which has refused clearance for members to play the opener of LIV Golf, which clashes with the Canadian Open.

But Johnson has now quit, following a similar decision by veteran US golfer Kevin Na, who is also in the field for the St Albans event.

The 37-year-old, who has more than $74 million in earnings on the PGA Tour, said, “Right now I’ve canceled my membership with the Tour.”

Johnson, who is reportedly getting $150 million in appearance fees for starring in the new series, said it was difficult to predict the consequences of his decision.

When asked if he chose money over country, he said he chose “what was best for me and my family”.

“The Ryder Cup is amazing and definitely meant a lot to me,” added Johnson, who won all five games in the United States’ record-breaking 19-9 win over Europe in Whistling Straits last year.

“I’m proud to say I’ve played and represented my country and hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that again, but I don’t make the rules.”

The former Masters and US Open champion’s record still allows him to play in the four non-PGA Tour majors.

It has also been reported that Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwarzel and Branden Grace, who are also in the 48-man field for the LIV event, have all relinquished their PGA Tour membership.

Six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson confirmed Monday that he had also signed up to attend the inaugural LIV event, in a major coup for organizers.

Mickelson has not played since comments were posted in February when he criticized Saudi supporters of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

Players who have chosen LIV Golf have done so despite the PGA Tour’s warnings of disciplinary action, but the DP World Tour has been more opaque, saying it would “evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis”.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series, which features eight tournaments this year, is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Players, as individuals and teams, will compete for a staggering $25 million in prize money across all seven regular season events played over 54 holes without a cut.

The eighth and final event will be a team championship with a total purse of $50 million.

Amnesty International said the series is an example of Saudi Arabia trying to “sport wash” its human rights record.

The golfers were questioned on Tuesday about human rights issues, including the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A US intelligence assessment found that the Gulf Kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “authorized” an operation to capture or assassinate Khashoggi, a columnist who criticized the Saudi rulers.

Saudi officials deny this, saying his killing at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul – which sparked global outrage – was a “rogue” operation.

“We all agree that the Khashoggi situation was reprehensible,” 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell told reporters on Tuesday.

“No one will dispute that fact, but we are golfers… We are not politicians. I know you hate that expression, but unfortunately we really aren’t. We are professional golfers.

“If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way to get where they wanted to go, and they had the resources to accelerate that experience, we’re proud to help them on that journey with the game of golf.”

Dustin Johnson is leaving the PGA Tour to play in breakaway series

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