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The fallout from the upcoming Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series has escalated after the former world No 1 Dustin Johnson said he has resigned his PGA Tour membership in order to play in the inaugural breakaway event at Centurion Club this week.
The 2020 Masters champion leads a 48-player field in St Albans, alongside six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, after defying warnings from the PGA Tour that he would be subject to fines or legal action if he plays in the tournament financed by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund and spearheaded by Greg Norman.
Norman, the chief executive of LIV Golf, had previously said that the organisation would defend their players if the PGA proceeded with disciplinary measures, but Johnson has now taken matters into his own hands by handing in his PGA Tour card. In doing so, the American could now be unable to play in the Ryder Cup and joins fellow American and long-time professional Kevin Na in splitting from the PGA Tour.
“It’s hard to speak on what the consequences might be but I’ve resigned my membership of the tour and that’s the plan for now,” Johnson said at a news conference at Centurion Club on Tuesday, ahead of the first of eight LIV Golf events scheduled to take place this season.
Johnson has represented the United States in the Ryder Cup on five occasions and was on the winning team against Europe in 2016 and 2021, where he won all five of his matches at Whistling Straights.
Johnson said he “had to think long and hard” about his decision but added: “Ultimately, I decided to come and do this. I’m excited about this. Obviously the Ryder Cup is unbelievable and something that has meant a lot to me ... Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that again, but I don’t make the rules.”
The chief executive of the PGA of America said last year that players must be a member of the PGA Tour in order to be selected for the US Ryder Cup team.
Johnson’s announcement comes just weeks after the South Carolinian committed his future to the tour, in what was considered at the time to be a fatal blow to the hopes of the breakaway LIV Golf Series.
In a statement released by the PGA Tour in February, shortly after Mickelson’s explosive comments about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record become public, Johnson said: “Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour; much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf.
“I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour. I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family.
“While there will always be areas where our tour can improve and evolve, I am thankful for our leadership and the many sponsors who make the PGA Tour golf’s premier tour.”