Paul McGinley confessed that he was surprise to see Dustin Johnson’s name in the starting field for the opening LIV Golf Invitational event and says time will only tell whether or not more star quality follows suit.
The American was the standout name amongst those confirmed for the first event set for the Centurion Club from June 9-11, not least because he previously released a statement confirming that he would be staying loyal to the PGA Tour.
“Johnson was a bit out of left-field considering he had pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour a mere six weeks ago,” McGinley told Sky Sports News.
“He is in the prime of his career. With due respect to the other guys, they’re in the twilight of their careers. Here is a guy who is very much considered as being one of the favourites whenever a major championship comes around.
“It’s a big leap for him, a brave leap, considering all of the other current top players in the world have remained loyal to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
“In terms of floodgates, we just have to wait and see what happens and how this Saudi league is going to evolve, whether the players decide this is a better option than what they’ve had in the last 50-odd years.
“It’s not like they’re doing bad on those tours either. We’ve put the biggest prizes in the history of the European Tour on the table this year, and the PGA Tour has done something similar.
“These guys are making a lot of money. The opportunity to make a lot more money has obviously been appealing for them and that’s why they’re going where they are.”
With Louis Oosthuizen, Talor Gooch and Kevin Na the only other players from golf’s current top-50 to make the jump, at least for the first event in London, it hasn’t exactly been the grand unveiling that LIV CEO Greg Norman would’ve hoped.
However, that’s not to say that others won’t follow the money when they see players ranked outside the top-1000 in the world filling their boots, and McGinley fears that such momentum could turn golf upside down in the coming months and years.
“This will go down as a historic moment in the game,” he said.
“If this Saudi league does gather a head of speed and does challenge the two established tours in the world, considering the background and the whole idea of team events, it could turn golf upside-down and on its head.
“We’ll have to see how it plays out. At this stage [Johnson’s] only one player, all the remaining top players in the world have stayed completely loyal to the PGA Tour.
“They feel they’ve got it good over there, and they have. Every week they’re playing for a $10-12m prize fund with a first prize of over $2m. They’re flying around in private jets every week and going home to their families every Sunday night.
“The idea of this Saudi line in time is to take it around the world more often in a Formula 1 style. It’s a big change from what they’ve been doing.”