Dustin Johnson to headline first LIV Golf Invitational Series event

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Dustin Johnson competes at the Saudi International in February (Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson competes at the Saudi International in February (Getty Images)

Former world No 1 Dustin Johnson will headline the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event at Centurion Club in Hertfordshire this month.

The two-time major winner was an unexpected inclusion in the field for the controversial Saudi-backed event, which boasts an enormous prize fund of £20m.

As expected, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Richard Bland, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer are among the notable names who will also be in the 48-man field.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour refused to grant releases to players seeking to participate in the event, which begins on 9 June, but LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman promised to “defend, reimburse and represent” players if they are met with any form of punishment.

Johnson was among the players set to join the Saudi breakaway league that collapsed in February after Phil Mickelson said he was aware of the country’s human rights abuses and the execution of Jamal Khashoggi but was happy to use their rival proposition as leverage.

Mickelson, who has been on a self-imposed hiatus since then and didn’t defend the PGA Championship last month, was not included in the field for the event at Centurion, however, there does still appear to be a space reserved if he chooses to play.

After the field was made public, Johnson’s manager David Winkle said: “Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years. Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it.

“Dustin has never had any issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him, but in the end, felt this was too compelling to pass up.”

Johnson had originally been scheduled to play at the RBC Canadian Open next week. The Royal Bank of Canada are one of his main sponsors and they said they were “extremely disappointed” by his withdrawal.

In a statement of their own, Canadian Open organisers added: “Together with our partners at RBC, we are disappointed to learn at this late stage that Dustin Johnson has made the decision to play the LIV Golf Event. As a past RBC Canadian Open champion, Canadian golf fans were looking forward to DJ's return this year.”

Norman, who has been the frontman for the Saudi-backed series, faced a huge backlash after he claimed “we all make mistakes” when asked about Khashoggi’s murder at a media day last month. A senior LIV Golf executive resigned soon afterwards, but the Australian was in a typically bullish mood as he hailed the strength of the field.

“Free agency has finally come to golf. 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,” Norman said.

“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.”

Full list of players

  • Oliver Bekker

  • Richard Bland

  • Laurie Canter

  • Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat (Amateur)

  • Hennie Du Plessis

  • Oliver Fisher

  • Sergio Garcia

  • Talor Gooch

  • Branden Grace

  • Justin Harding

  • Sam Horsfield

  • Dustin Johnson

  • Matt Jones

  • Sadom Kaewkanjana

  • Martin Kaymer

  • Phachara Khongwatmai

  • Sihwan Kim

  • Ryosuke Kinoshita

  • Chase Koepka

  • Jinichiro Kosuma

  • Pablo Larrazabal

  • Graeme McDowell

  • Jediah Morgan

  • Kevin Na

  • Shaun Norris

  • Andy Ogletree

  • Louis Oosthuizen

  • Wade Ormsby

  • Adrian Otaegui

  • Turk Pettit

  • James Plot (Amateur)

  • Ian Poulter

  • David Puig

  • JC Ritche

  • Charl Schwartzel

  • Hudson Swafford

  • Hideto Tanihara

  • Peter Uihlein

  • Scott Vincent

  • Lee Westwood

  • Bernd Wiesberger

  • Blake Windred

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