DUSTIN JOHNSON caved into a dramatic late £100million offer to shock golf and become the biggest star to sign up to the Saudi-backed rebel golf league.
Former world number one Johnson had initially rebuffed approaches to play in next week’s LIV Golf Invitational — the first event of the competition funded by Saudi sovereign wealth.
Dustin Johnson is set to be paid around £100million after joining the Saudi golf league
But the 37-year-old performed a U-turn at the start of this week after LIV tour’s head Greg Norman made a huge financial offer in order to sign up one of the sport’s stellar names.
Two-time major winner Johnson joins Brits Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell in the field of committed entrants due to tee off at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire next Thursday.
His agent said: “Dustin has been contemplating this opportunity off-and-on for the last couple of years.
“Ultimately he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it.”
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Johnson is currently third in the PGA Tour all-time money leaders, sitting behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson with earnings over £59million.
The winner at the Centurion Club will receive £3million out of a total prize fund of £20m and Johnson is estimated to be in line to receive well over £100m if he commits to a full-time role on the tour.
Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel are among other Major winners so far listed among the 42 names confirmed to be taking part.
And the decision to sign up has been defended by Rory McIlroy, who despite rejecting advances himself says for some players it is too good an option to turn down.
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McIlroy said: “You know, you have some guys in a position where like they are literally not guaranteed a job next year.
“As we’ve seen, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. So someone that isn’t guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events, you can spend more time with your family.
“I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position.
“Again, I’m not in that position, and it’s not something that I would do. But you know, you at least have to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see where they are coming from.”
Brits Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have each decided to play in the rebel tour
Now the US-based PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour face a decision over what action to take with the players who have turned their backs on their own events to play.
Meanwhile, McIlroy insists he can still build on his US PGA failure, starting at the Memorial Open in Ohio this weekend.
The 33-year-old faded from a first round lead to finish eighth on two under par at the US PGA last month as his eight-year major drought continued.
He said: “It feels good. I feel like everything is going in the right direction. You know, I feel like Southern Hills was a missed opportunity but I have to take the positives from it.
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“I did some really good stuff that week. It’s just a matter of trying to build on that.
“I’m embarking on a four-week stretch here. So I’m going to playing a lot of golf coming up and I feel like my game is in good shape. So I’m excited for this run and excited to give myself a few more chances to hopefully win golf tournaments.”