LOS ANGELES — A proposed Saudi-financed rival golf league took a big hit Sunday morning when Dustin Johnson said he was “fully committed” to stay with the PGA Tour.
Johnson added his name to a growing list of golf’s top players who have said they are not interested in taking guaranteed riches from the Super Golf League that Greg Norman and his LIV Golf Investments are trying to create.
Each of the top eight players in the world who have been asked now have indicated they don’t plan to sign up for the Saudi-backed league. That doesn’t include some of golf’s other marquee players who have said they are not interested, such as Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth.
Johnson, a two-time major champion who has spent more time at No. 1 in the world than any of the current players — he now is at No. 6 — had kept his intentions quiet over the past few months, leading to speculation he would join.
“I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour,” he said. “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.”
Like some other players, Johnson said there are areas where the PGA Tour can “improve and evolve.”
Rory McIlroy, Koepka and world No. 1 Jon Rahm were among the first to reject a rival tour at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, and they doubled down on their support this week at the Genesis Invitational, where the chatter was loud about the proposed league getting close to an announcement.
It picked up steam over the last two weeks because of Phil Mickelson, who is thought to be the lead player of a new league but has made comments that make it unclear what the six-time major champion actually is pursuing.
Mickelson accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest while he was at the Saudi International for a seven-figure appearance fee.
And then Alan Shipnuck, who is writing a biography on Mickelson due out this spring, published an excerpt based on a November phone interview in which Mickelson called the Saudis “scary” and referred to the PGA Tour as a “dictatorship.”
Mickelson said three players paid attorneys to write the operating agreement for a new league. He also said he didn’t care if the new league succeeded, as long as it gave players more leverage in dealing with the PGA Tour.
McIlroy, the first to reject a new league by saying he wanted to be on “the right side of history,” said this week it sounded as though the roster for a new league would be a “pre-Champions Tour” of players in the twilight of their careers.
Bryson DeChambeau would be the only major champion under 30 contemplating joining the rival league. He has not made a public statement of support for either side.
Johnson’s announcement ends a week of top players making it clear where they stood. McIlroy referred to it as the “not so Super league.” Rahm said his “fealty” is to the PGA Tour and “I think the best legacy I can accomplish will be with the PGA Tour.”
Viktor Hovland said earlier this week his wish was to play on the PGA Tour, and all that could change his mind would be if the best players in the world went to the new league.
The 24-year-old from Norway, who is No. 4 in the world, didn’t see that happening at the moment.
“It seemed a lot of good players are voicing their support for the PGA Tour, so that’s certainly going to be a tall task for other leagues if the best players don’t want to go,” Hovland said.
Xander Schauffele, the No. 7 player in the world, fell in line with that thinking in an interview Saturday afternoon when he said, “For me, I want to be on the best tour possible and compete against the best players in the world.”
He was at the Saudi International, which is not part of the proposed league, but was not inclined to sign up with Norman’s group.
Schauffele said he hopes the threat of a new league can lead to the PGA Tour improving its product and perhaps making concessions on such items as media rights.
“At the end of the day, all I want is to be part of the best product possible,” he said.