Golfers Leaving PGA Tour for Controversial Rival Sparks Fan Curiosity

Several well-known golfers recently announced that they will be leaving the PGA Tour to play in the tour's new rival, LIV Golf, sparking curiosity from numerous fans.

Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Masters champion, was one of the more notable names to announce his resignation from the PGA Tour to play in the new LIV Golf tournament, which has been regarded as controversial due to its being backed by the Saudi Arabian government.

"For right now, I've resigned my membership on the tour and I'm going to play [LIV Golf] for now," Johnson said during a press conference on Tuesday. In addition to Johnson, other top-ranked golfers who made similar decisions to join the LIV Golf tournament include Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood.

During the press conference on Tuesday, Johnson also expressed his desire to play in the majors. According to ESPN, Johnson's past victories at the Masters (2020) and the U.S. Open (2016) provided him with exemptions to play in major championships.

"Obviously I'm exempt for the majors, so I plan on playing unless I hear otherwise," Johnson said.

The PGA Tour does not run golf's four traditional major tournaments, the Masters is run by the Augusta National Golf Club; the PGA Championship is run by the PGA of America, a separate organization from the PGA Tour; the U.S. Open is run by the United States Golf Association and the British Open, also known simply as The Open, is run by The R&A, which is based at St. Andrew's in Scotland.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan previously told players that they will forfeit their tour membership if they decide to play in the LIV Golf tournament, Sports Illustrated reported.

LIV Golf Tournament
Several big-named golfers recently announced that they will be leaving the PGA Tour to join a controversial rival, the LIV Golf Tournament. Above, players practice on the driving range ahead of the forthcoming LIV Golf Invitational Series event at The Centurion Club in St Albans, north of London, on June 7, 2022. ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP/Getty

Following Johnson's announcement and similar announcements by other golfers, fans took to social media to express their views on the new league and how it relates to the PGA Tour.

Twitter user Matt Haug wrote, "The LIV golf league reminds me of the XFL. At this point, I feel like it's just a glorified exhibition."

Similarly, Owen Simpson of KTXS News in Texas wrote, "Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na have all left the PGA for the LIV in the past 48 hours. Players had complained for years about being underpaid, and now the PGA is finally paying the price...Should be interesting to see what happens next."

Twitter user Tevin Davis also had a comparable response, writing "I like seeing golfers joining LIV Golf. PGA tour better get to together. Should be very interesting going forward."

Kendall Baker, a sports reporter for Axios, shared a photo of the LIV Golf tournament's team names and captains and wrote, "Golf is having a normal one..."

"Spin zone: If LIV goes full "Backyard Sports" vibes, I may actually be in," Baker's tweet added.

Twitter user @_benmid also wrote about potential changes the PGA Tour could see following the LIV Golf tournament.

"I think most of the players joining are hoping that the LIV at least forces the PGA to makes changes that benefit players and fans down the line... which I think is good," the tweet said.

A number of other Twitter users criticized some of the players joining the new tournament for alleged human rights violations by the Saudi Arabian government.

"Dustin Johnson chose money over human rights. What a damn shame to watch these pro golfers sell themselves to the highest bidder, regardless of what they're enabling," Twitter user Charlotte Clymer wrote.

When asked for comment, thePGA Tour directed Newsweek to a statement it issued last week. "As communicated to our entire membership on May 10 and reiterated when the field was announced, those who requested to play were not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League's London event, under PGA Tour tournament regulations," the statement said. "Members who violate the tournament regulations are subject to disciplinary action."