Maddie Meyer / PGA of America / PGA of America via Getty Images
Star golfer Dustin Johnson was reportedly paid “around” $ 125 million to join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf league, according to James Corrigan and Tom Morgan of the Telegraph (h / t Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post).
Johnson’s defection from the PGA Tour to the controversial LIV Golf series caused one of his sponsors, the Royal Bank of Canada, to cut ties with him.
“As a result of the decisions made by professional golfers Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell to play the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener, RBC is terminating its sponsorship agreement with both players,” the company said in a statement. “We wish them well in their future endeavors.”
A number of other prominent golfers, including McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Talor Gooch, will participate in London’s LIV Golf Invitational Series, June 9-11.
The new league has reportedly been willing to throw major money around to entice former and current players.
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus said earlier in May that he was offered $ 100 million to serve in an executive role, though he told reporters Tuesday he had “zero interest in wanting to do something like that. … My allegiance has been to the PGA Tour . “
Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, was one of the first golfers to align himself with the league, though he will not participate in London.
Mickelson’s controversial comments in November to his biographer, Alan Shipnuck, about why he supported the Saudi-backed league became public in February:
“They’re scary motherf – kers to get involved with. We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour. “
Mickelson hasn’t played a professional tournament since January.
Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights violations and sportswashing has made LIV Golf a controversial endeavor. The PGA Tour, meanwhile, has fought back against the threat of talent defection by not granting a waiver to players for the London event and threatening to strip players of their membership if they join the breakaway league.
Johnson’s defection was a major surprise, as he previously had announced he would remain with the PGA Tour.
“I am fully committed to the PGA Tour,” he said in a February statement. “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.”
On Tuesday, Johnson’s agent, David Winkle, released a statement on behalf of the golfer, saying it was in “his and his family’s best interest” to join LIV Golf and that Johnson “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. “