PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (AP) — Dustin Johnson was among the most prominent players to sign with Saudi-funded LIV Golf and he made it pay off by making $35.6 million in just eight tournaments, including an $18 million bonus for leading the points list and the team title.
Now comes the encore, and Johnson was asked if he felt pressure to repeat.
“Yeah, I’m really nervous,” he replied, keeping up with his reputation of not getting bothered by much in life and in golf.
The curiosity goes beyond Johnson and his 4Aces, a team that includes Patrick Reed and Pat Perez and now has Peter Uihlein, who finished third on the points list.
It now is billed as LIV Golf League, with an emphasis on the 12 four-man teams that will remain the same during a 14-tournament schedule that starts at Mayakoba, the Mexican golf resort that previously held a PGA Tour event.
“I love it because we’re here and the tour is not — end quote,” Perez said.
The prize fund remains $20 million for medal play among 48 players, plus a $5 million purse paid out to the leading three teams.
There was some minor shuffling. Uihlein went from Brooks Koepka’s team (Smash) to join Johnson, while Koepka has added Matthew Wolff.
But LIV Golf hasn’t really been able to add more top-ranked players during the four months it was away. The biggest addition was Thomas Pieters of Belgium at No. 35 in the world. Pieters told The Telegraph he only decided to join when Hudson Swafford became sidelined for the year with a hip injury.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson signed with LIV last year while injured and makes his debut as captain of a team (RangeGoats) that includes Pieters, Talor Gooch and Harold Varner III,
Watson will be among seven players making their LIV debuts on Friday when the 54-hole event begins on El Camaleon golf course.
Five players who competed in all seven individual events last year are no longer on the roster — Laurie Canter, former NCAA champion Turk Pettit, Shaun Norris, Wade Ormsby and Sadom Kaewkanjana.
A LIV official said several players were free agents who did not have contracts, and they were replaced. Several of those players are alternates.
Canter is filling in at Mayakoba for two-time major winner Martin Kaymer. Alternates this week are Ormsby, Pettit and Andy Ogletree.
LIV Golf did not have a television partner for its inaugural season and signed an agreement in January with The CW. The opening round will be available on the network’s app, with weekend coverage on linear TV in the U.S.
It also has streaming on its website for overseas viewers on an app (Liv Golf Plus) and a website (LivGolfPlus.com). LIV added its first corporate partner, EasyPost — an official marketing partner typical of other U.S. golf tours — and some teams have new logos.
For Johnson and Garcia, the apparel will be slightly different. Both players have ended longtime deals with Adidas Golf as it works toward team uniforms.
“For me being the captain of the team, obviously being able to go out and find a clothing sponsor is more beneficial than waiting another year,” Johnson said Wednesday. “Hopefully, my clothes get out of customs and I’ll have some stuff to wear by this weekend. But if not, I’ll be wearing some blank stuff.”
LIV Golf’s antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour is still in the discovery phase, and a federal judge this week ruled that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund — which owns 93% of LIV Golf — and the fund’s governor can be added as defendants in the PGA Tour’s countersuit. Any trial is not expected until next year.
Mayakoba is the first of three LIV events before the Masters on April 6-9. LIV has 17 players who are eligible for Augusta National.
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