Furious golf fans have taken to social media in their droves to slam the ‘absolutely despicable’ Dustin Johnson and other ‘lowlife’ golfers for their participation in the Saudia Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.
A number of the world’s top players have chosen to jump ship from the PGA Tour in favour of the massively lucrative and controversial new competition.
Many view it as the latest transparent attempt from Saudi Arabia to improve their global image and mask numerous human rights issues by using sport.
American golfer Dustin Johnson announced he has resigned from the PGA Tour and sparked an angry response online for his reasoning at joining the Saudi Arabia-backed competition
The two-time major champion (second from left) is part of the new breakaway Saudi-led series, the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which starts this week in St Albans
As a former World No 1, Johnson is the jewel in the crown of the breakaway group and spoke at a press conference on Tuesday, explaining his decision while officially confirming his resignation from the PGA Tour.
‘I don’t want to play for the rest of my life, this gives me an opportunity to do what I want to do,’ he explained.
His participation means he will be unable to play in the Ryder Cup and he added: ‘The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and has meant a lot to me, but ultimately I decided this was best for me and my family.
‘All things are subject to change and hopefully at some point it will change and I will get a chance to do that again.’
Golf fans were infuriated by what they saw as a clear cash grab from Johnson and the other players taking part, including Phil Mickelson.
Johnson said back in February that he was committed to the PGA Tour, but has done a U-turn
One wrote: ‘Dustin Johnson you are now an official sports washer. Congratulations. Don’t care where the money comes from.’
Another added: ‘I don’t want to have to play golf all my life’ – Dustin Johnson. F***ing Hell Dustin, you’re not going down the pit! I’d ban the 3 of them from every major for 10 years.’
‘Shame on you for taking blood oil money over giving the chance for real young golfers the opportunity to watch and play with you……really are an example of an American buffoon you are,’ wrote a third.
Johnson is the second golfer to resign from the PGA Tour to join the contentious new event which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Fellow American Kevin Na said he had also chosen that option last week.
Another irate fan referred to the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a royal family insider turned critic, killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, in a case that tarnished the reputation of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Graeme McDowell came in for plenty of flak for his responses during the press conference
He wrote: ‘You think being involved with The Saudi’s is what is best for your family? You know they murdered a reporter and dismembered him right?? Good luck with that and enjoy there blood money!
Graeme McDowell is another player who has committed to play and was also targeted for criticism.
‘At one time thought McDowell was someone I would admire bit no longer after he sold his soul to the devil. Not surprised at Phil or DJ though,’ posted a supporter.
‘Aw man, McDowell is playing for the Saudi Arabian dictatorship sportswashing mission! Imagine, I had respect for him’, offered another.
Phil Mickelson will play the opening event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series
The 42-year-old Northern Irishman bizarrely compared the competition to Twenty20 cricket at Tuesday’s press conference.
He said: ‘There’s space in the game for something fresh and new. Shorter playing windows kind of like Twenty20 cricket if you like. We look at the cricket model and we look at the success they’ve had with the IPL and the Twenty20 and there’s a lot of what we’re trying to do here that we feel like it’s better for the fan, it’s better for the players.
‘It is something fresh and fun and it has been energising to have this opportunity in front of us, it has been incredibly polarising but no we’re here and I’m looking forward to getting balls in the air.’
While the following players were namechecked by another disappointed onlooker.
‘The willingness of wealthy pro golfers to help the Saudis sportswash their abysmal human rights record is rooted firmly in greed. I am saddened by you all: Greg Norman Phil Mickelson Dustin Johnson Lee Westwood Ian Poulter Sergio García Graeme McDowell.’
Tiger Woods turned down the chance to join the rebel group in a blow to the competition
The term ‘lowlifes’ was used in one message: ‘Graeme McDowell justifies taking money from murderers by them by saying theyre just golfers but hopefully #SaudiArabia will use #LIVGolf to better themselves even mentioning the murder of #Khashoggi. Soon after all are laughing & just saying they cant add anything else. Lowlifes.’
The first tournament takes place on the outskirts of London on Friday at Centurion Club.
Players such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have taken a firm stance against the breakaway group, which has proved to be incredible controversial.
The first seven events all have a prize purse of £20million, with £16m being distributed between the 48-man field and the remaining £4m being shared between the top three teams at the end of each week.
ENTRANTS FOR FIRST LIV GOLF INVITATIONAL SERIES EVENT
Dustin Johnson (USA)
Phil Mickleson (USA)
Kevin Na (USA)
Talor Gooch (USA)
Sihwan Kim (USA)
Chase Koepka (USA)
Andy Ogletree (USA)
Turk Pettit (USA)
James Piot (USA)
Hudson Swafford (USA)
Peter Uihlein (USA)
Sergio Garcia (ESP)
Pablo Larrazabal (ESP)
Adrian Otaegui (ESP)
David Puig (ESP)
Martin Kaymer (GER)
Graeme McDowell (NIR)
Ian Poulter (ENG)
Lee Westwood (ENG)
Richard Bland (ENG)
Laurie Canter (ENG)
Oliver Fisher (ENG)
Sam Horsfield (ENG)
Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
Oliver Bekker (RSA)
Hennie Du Plessis (RSA)
Branden Grace (RSA)
Justin Harding (RSA)
Shaun Norris (RSA)
JC Ritchie (RSA)
Charl Scwartzel (RSA)
Ian Snyman (RSA)
Matt Jones (AUS)
Jediah Morgan (AUS)
Wade Ormsby (AUS)
Travis Smyth (AUS)
Blake Windred (AUS)
Kevin Yuan (AUS)
Hideto Tanihara (JPN)
Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN)
Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN)
Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA)
Ratchanon Chantananuwat (THA)
Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA)
Phachara Khongwatmai (THA)
Viraj Madappa (IND)
Scott Vincent (ZIM)
Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)