19th Hole: Dustin Johnson's LIV move, Ryder Cup mess, Tiger Woods at US Open?

GolfMagic debates the big talking points of the week, including Dustin Johnson breaking away from the PGA Tour to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Andy Roberts's picture
Mon, 6 Jun 2022
19th Hole: Dustin Jonson's LIV move, Ryder Cup mess, Tiger Woods at US Open

It has been some week of golf talking points, none bigger than former World No.1 and two-time major champion Dustin Johnson going back on his word and breaking away from the PGA Tour to join Greg Norman's controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. 

Johnson will be in action for the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club in England this week after receiving in the region of $150 million before a ball has even been struck in the eight-event schedule this season. 

Rory McIlroy has already hit out at the first LIV Golf event, declaring the field is incomparable to that of one on the PGA Tour. 

Other notable players competing in the first LIV Golf event include Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, all of whom may have now scuppered their chances of ever playing in or captaining the European Ryder Cup side.

Elsewhere in the golf world, fans are wondering if Tiger Woods will be fit enough to play at the US Open next week, or whether he will just focus on getting himself ready for the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews in July. 

GolfMagic's content team comprising Andy Roberts, Ben Smith and Matt Chivers sat down together today to give their verdicts on some of golf's latest big talking points: 

Has Saudi golf rebel Dustin Johnson now played in his final regular PGA Tour event?

Andy Roberts, GolfMagic Content Director (@AndyRobertsGolf): Right now, I'm not sure he will care too much. The man has just banked $150 million for passing on his account number and sort code. 

Less golf, more money, extra time to go on swanky boat trips with wife Paulina Gretzky, more time to spend with his kids and watch them play sport... plus he can still play in all four majors, which let's face it is all the top players really care about if they are honest. 

Life is good for DJ whether we like his decision to side with Greg Norman or not. 

I think Johnson's manager David Winkle made it very clear last week that even DJ himself knows the end is nigh for him on the PGA Tour: "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."

Let's see what happens but I honestly do not think we will see the man who currently ranks third in the all-time PGA Tour money list ever entertain a regular PGA Tour event again. 

Not at least until LIV Golf becomes a spent force, which let's face it, could happen as early as next week. 

Ben Smith, GolfMagic Content Executive (@BenDSmith91): The big question is does DJ want to? You would assume he is not too fussed considering that his alleged signing-on fee is worth more money than Tiger Woods earned in tournament winnings throughout his entire PGA Tour career.

Johnson’s decision to essentially screw over his now former sponsor RBC on the eve of the Canadian Open shows that he knows he’s made a very clear choice – and he’s okay with it.

However, I don’t imagine DJ will go down the same route as Kevin Na has by resigning from the PGA Tour.

It’s possible he will approach this like the way he walks. Nonchalantly. He’ll just let events run their course with regards to a court battle and say a grand total of nothing to the media about it.

If and when the PGA Tour do issue their first ban, some experts have said that there will be an injunction granted over the whole affair until there is a ruling. Meaning, PGA Tour players could have their cake and eat it too.

I would put DJ in this bracket. He’s probably not fussed either way.

If he can play a few PGA Tour events with big prize purses (The Players) alongside the LIV Series then great. If not, he’ll no doubt jet off somewhere exotic with Paulina and the kids.

Matt Chivers, GolfMagic Content Executive (@MGChivers): It will be interesting to see what punishment the PGA Tour has lined up for Johnson. If I had to guess, I'd say something like a one or two-month suspension at the very most. 

I do not think he has played his last event on the PGA Tour because that would include a lifetime ban and I really can't see that being the case for any of the players who have defected. 

Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were both clearly interested in LIV Golf at the start of the year. With DJ now making the first big move, as we initially thought would happen at the start of the year, do you expect others to soon follow suit? 

Andy: If Fabrizio Romano was a golf journalist, he would already be typing 'Phil to LIV #herewego'. 

And well, Bryson's comments about wanting to remain on the PGA Tour earlier this year were about as convincing as the Royal Family telling us Prince Andrew had Covid this weekend. 

DJ is now a guinea pig in all of this. He is the first star name to make the move, and the first to really shock the sport. Other big names will watch closely, see how sponsors and reputations are affected, and then they will sit down with their respective teams to decide. 

I can see someone like Brooks Koepka making the switch at some point soon. Let's face it, Brooks only cares about the majors anyway. It will also give him more time to work on his dance moves with wife Jena Sims. 

Rickie Fowler to LIV Golf would not surprise me in the slightest, and neither would Patrick Reed. The latter is already losing enough sponsorship deals as it is. 

Ben: I would also put both Mickelson and DeChambeau in the "have their cake and eat it too" bracket. Clearly, both of their statements in the past have suggested they were very keen on a Saudi golf league. 

We all know the story about Mickelson but even when Bryson issued a statement back in February, he said that "as of right now" he plans to stay, but of course that could change in the future.

Bryson also expressed solidarity with PGA Tour journeyman Charley Hoffman when he went on a bizarre rant at the WM Phoenix Open about their being "no protection for the players" over a golf rule that he should have been aware of.

Mickelson also "liked" Hoffman’s post, so they are all in this together no doubt. 

DeChambeau is different to DJ in that he still has a lot that he wants to achieve in the game. He wants to be World No.1. He wants to win more majors. He wants to play against and beat the best. He also doesn’t want to jeopardize relationships with his current sponsors.

The overwhelming feeling I get from DeChambeau is: "Not right now, but call me later."

Others will follow. Of course they will. If it weren’t for his injury, I’d have expected Bubba Watson to be in the field. Likewise, Rickie Fowler, who is keeping his options open.

More PGA Tour pros will follow the dollar signs. Watch this space.

Matt: Other star names could definitely follow Dustin Johnson, I think that is inevitable. DJ has broken the ice now. Everyone will sit back and take note as to what happens. 

Phil Mickelson has to be a guarantee to play in a LIV Golf event at some point soon. You would think too much has happened for him to head back to the PGA Tour now but let's wait and see. 

I also think Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed will be heading that way soon, too. 

I don't think Bryson DeChambeau will follow though because he is in the age bracket of players that are still chasing their legacy on the PGA Tour.

He is a US Open champion and as he has stated before, I think he will stay where the best players in the world are playing.

But as we all know, money talks. At least for some. 

Rory McIlroy says he does not consider the first LIV Golf event a "proper tournament" - has he got a valid point here or is that unfair? 

Andy: Bang on, Rory. 

It's not four rounds, it's not 72 holes, and the field is 48 players, made up of basically whoever wanted to turn up for a knock. 

I mean with all due respect to the first LIV Golf lineup at Centurion Club, there are probably at least 5-10 players in the field that not even Dustin Johnson has heard of before. 

The shotgun start to me is just a ridiculous idea, too. You could have one of the leaders finishing on the 3rd hole and another finishing up on the 12th. 

Golf courses are laid out by designers to create drama with exciting stretches and closing holes. You want to see the leaders battling it on the same finishing holes, not on opposing sides of the course. 

Can you imagine someone tuning into golf for the first time and trying to keep up with what is going on? It's hard enough trying to explain a round of golf to a beginner when they are teeing off the 1st. 

Yes, it will mean a shorter day of watching golf as everyone starts and finishes at the same time, but I think a shotgun start will be a huge turn off for YouTubers. 

So yeah, valid point Rors. 

Ben: Yes, very much so. The late signing of Dustin Johnson added a small layer of credibility to this tournament.

It’s a B list field at best filled with ageing stars, players who were once touted for big things but now can’t make a cut on the PGA Tour (see Andy Ogletree, former U.S. Amateur champion and current World No. 1349) and a handful of younger European players that are 50/50 on “making it” in the big time (Sam Horsfield, Laurie Canter).

The format is bizarre. It’s 54 holes with no cuts and a shot gun start. Winning the first event doesn’t mean anything other than the player’s bank balance growing exponentially bigger.

Like Andy says, having a shotgun start takes away drama. Can you imagine a shot gun start at TPC Sawgrass? Can you imagine someone starting on the 17th? It just all seems a little bit lame in my opinion. That could change over time, but this promises to be a shaky start. I think Greg Norman and co are resigned to that. Their product will improve over time, I’m sure. But I certainly won’t be rushing to watch it.

Matt: If I'm honest, I actually think the new LIV Golf format could capture a lot of people's imagination.

The 54-hole format, team championship and shotgun starts don't offend people. The source of the series' funding is what offends people.

A "proper tournament" is a fairly open-ended statement. In comparison to a PGA Tour event or a major championship, then I'd agree with McIlroy, but in terms of the new format and features of LIV Golf, I think it could prove to be popular.

I am prepared to give it a chance at least. 

Have Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell lost all hope of ever playing in or captaining the European Ryder Cup team? What about Dustin Johnson in the US Ryder Cup team? Or will they all be let off the hook? 

Andy: They only have themselves to blame if they do get booted out of the Ryder Cup as warnings have been made for some time. 

Without question, the aforementioned players are all Ryder Cup legends and it would be a huge shame if they never get to play in or captain a Ryder Cup side again for all they have achieved in the biennial contest down the years. 

But if the Ryder Cup really meant that much to them they would not have even risked it. You would think being a captain of the European Ryder Cup team would have been something each of them would have cherished? 

It's not as if they are all short of a few bob, either. 

I am particularly surprised by Poulter's decision to even risk future Ryder Cup captaincy given just how much adoration he has for the clash against the United States. 

As for the USA side, Johnson, the record points scorer last time out, would be a huge loss for them - there is no doubt about that. But I don't ever really see him wanting to be a Ryder Cup captain one day, so I'm not sure there is any risk posed there. 

Ben: It’s a strange one with these guys. For so many years they have been the heart and soul of Ryder Cup Europe.

They have been there through the good times and the bad and you certainly wouldn’t have bet against Westwood or Poulter playing in Rome after their Whistling Straits humiliation.

Westwood even ruled himself out of a captaincy selection because he was still clinging onto the idea that he could be in the team playing. Before the 19-9 defeat, Poulter suggested this was his last chance but he never officially ruled it out. So their decision is a little baffling.

It is surprising that they seem to have put future a captaincy at risk – but then again nothing surprises me anymore. Their decision to play when they have been icons on the European Tour for so long will certainly do them no favours. Time will tell.

The same can be said for Johnson, though their team is bursting with talent you could argue he won’t be missed too much, despite going 5-0 last September.

Matt: My gut feeling is that Poulter, Garcia, Westwood and McDowell will still be involved in future Ryder Cups and if they aren't, that would be extremely harsh. I'd say the same for Johnson, too.

The players are playing at the LIV Golf events to earn ridiculously big money so they can live happy lives.

I honestly don't see what this has to do with the Ryder Cup and they have all served previous teams with great golf and loyalty in previous years. 

Will Tiger Woods play in the US Open, or should he just focus his efforts on The Open?

Andy: I think the US Open for Tiger Woods really could be touch and go, especially as we are just one week away and there have been zero sightings of the great man out on the course since his WD from the US PGA Championship last month. 

Perhaps we will see him emerge on the fairways later this week should he decide to go and test out Brookline for himself - something he has done ahead of both The Masters at Augusta National and the US PGA at Southern Hills this season.

I think if we have not seen or heard Tiger is on the course by the end of the week, then the US Open will be off the cards.

If he does play, I cannot see him making the cut around a testing Brookline where the rough will be thick and the greens will be rapid. 

As for The Open at St Andrews this July, well that is a guarantee for Woods on what is his favourite track in the world. It just also happens to be one of the flattest in world, which will make it so much easier on his legs. 

Ben: There are so many emotions watching Tiger Woods these days. It’s been said before, and I know it sounds obvious – but Woods is definitely more relatable as a 46-year-old grinding to make the cut at a major than watching him annihilate everything in his path and failing miserably to connect a high five with Stevie Williams. You wince when his weight gives way and he almost goes arse over tit. You wince when he comes up and out of a shot and slaps one down the fairway. You quietly fist bump when he rolls in a birdie or saves par. I’m loving every minute of 2022 Tiger, even if he isn’t. His days are numbered and the clock is ticking. Fast.

His performances at the Masters and US PGA were brilliant in parts and also worrying. You could make a strong case for arguing that it’s probably better for him to throw in the towel – but then again, he made the freakin’ cut at Augusta National 14 months after a near fatal car crash when Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka didn’t. So, there could be one last hurrah. Maybe. He’s so bloody minded that it wouldn’t surprise me if I ever wrote the sentence: “Tiger Woods becomes oldest player to win the Masters”.

For what it’s worth, I think he plays at Brookline. At this point I don’t think he will gain too much from extra time off ahead of St Andrews.

Matt: I think Tiger Woods will play at Brookline, but I don't think he should. US Opens are brutal tests and Woods doesn't need to prove himself to anyone. If he plays, I would be surprised if he played four rounds, even if he made the cut. I want to see him play as well as possible at The Open at a course where he could genuinely go low. I don't think the US Open will prepare him for that at all.

Agree with our comments? What have you made of Dustin Johnson's move to LIV Golf? Who else do you expect to break away from the PGA Tour? Will Tiger Woods play the US Open? Share your thoughts and comments over on the GolfMagic social media channels, or come and visit us over on the GolfMagic YouTube Channel.