Days after announcing he would play in the inaugural LIV Golf event this week in London, Dustin Johnson indicated he has resigned from the PGA Tour entirely.
Johnson, a two-time major winner and former world no. 1, is the biggest name to officially defect from the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace have also resigned their memberships, joining Kevin Na, who did so over the past weekend. Phil Mickelson, who announced Monday that he is playing on the LIV tourindicated that he intends to keep his PGA Tour lifetime membership.
“I resigned my membership from the Tour and I’m going to play here, for now. That’s the plan,” Johnson said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “What the consequences are going to be I can’t comment on how the Tour’s going to handle it. I can’t answer for the majors, but hopefully they’re going to allow us to play.”
Johnson is exempt for all four majors, but the USGA and the R&A — the entities controlling the upcoming US Open and Open Championship — have not indicated whether they will prevent LIV Golf players from competing.
Johnson’s decision is a way of sidestepping the possibility of punishment or litigation that could await PGA Tour members who defy the Tour’s order not to play in LIV events. The question of whether PGA Tour members are employees or independent contractors is a murky one, likely to end up in a courtroom. Johnson effectively removed himself from any legal battles over his status.
However, the resignation not only takes Johnson off the Tour’s weekly schedule of tournaments; Johnson is now ineligible to play in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup tournaments. Last fall, Johnson went 5-0-0 to help the United States to a thorough dismantling of Europe.
“If someone wants to play on a Ryder Cup for the US,” PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said last year, “they’re going to need to be a member of the PGA of America, and they get that membership through being a member of the (PGA) Tour.”
“The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and has definitely meant a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I’m proud to say I’ve played and represented my country and hopefully I will get a chance to do that again, but I don’t make the rules.”
The inaugural LIV event, held at Century Golf Club outside London, begins on Thursday with a $25 million purse, including $4 million to the winner. The Saudi-backed venture plans for eight events this year, and will scale upward in coming years through a $2 billion pledge from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at email@example.com.