In a surprise move, RBC has dumped Dustin Johnson and fellow US Open champion Graeme McDowell as brand ambassadors.
Both players have long worn the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) logo on their shirt sleeves and proudly carried RBC on their golf bags. It’s also meant each undertaking much corporate golf-related work for the 158-year-old bank that last year managed some one trillion Canadian dollars in assets.
Though no sooner had DJ’s and GMac’s names been officially linked to LIV Golf and RBC dropped the pair like a counterfeit bank note.
The annual Canadian Open is set to be staged next week ,though the duo of Johnson and McDowell will instead be in London for the inaugural $25m LIV Golf Series event, and that’s more than double the prize-money on offer in Canada.
RBC issued a statement saying officials were “disappointed” former world number one Johnson had made the decision to play the seven event LIV circuit.
RBC itself confirmed it had severed ties with both Johnson and 2010 US Open winner McDowell.
“As a result of the decisions made by professional golfers Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell to play the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener, RBC is terminating its sponsorship agreement with both players,” RBC said in the statement. “We wish them well in their future endeavours.”
Johnson’s agent David Wrinkle issued a statement about his client’s decision to play in the LIV event, saying: “Dustin decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it.”
According to reports, the recently married Johnson was paid approximately $175 million to join the LIV Golf.
News of those teeing-up in London prompted the PGA Tour to reiterate their desire to punish those who jump ship to LIV Golf.
“As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA TourTournament Regulations,” the PGA Tour said in a latest statement
“Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.”
In the past, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has warned that anyone joining a rival venture could be excluded from Tour events and face a possible lifetime ban.
While two-time major winner Johnson was the biggest name revealed on Tuesday, other players included two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, and major champions Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and McDowell.
European Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were also named in the field.
Norman had hinted previously there would be some big names to join his venture, despite public scepticism about who would choose him over the PGA. But his ability to lure Johnson and other high-profile players over proves The Shark wasn’t just talking the talk, he’s also walking the walk.
The PGA Tour had declined to grant releases to any players for the London tournament.Johnson, a two-time major champion, said in February he would stay loyal to the US Tour, but when 42-strong field for next week’s tournament was released he headed the list of players who will vie for a $35 million purse.
RBC isn’t the first sponsor to drop golfers over LIV Golf. International shipping company UPS dropped Westwood last month and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson lost a string of sponsors after his comments in February on the controversial tour and its Saudi financial backers.
As the golf world digested the news, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, a close friend of McDowell, said he did not want his colleagues to face stiff penalties over joining LIV
“I certainly don’t think they should drop the hammer,” McIlroy replied when asked if he thought authorities should get tough.
“Look, (authorities) are well within their rights to enforce the rules and regulations that have been set. But it’s going to end up being an argument about what those rules and regulations are.
“I have some very close friends that are playing in this event in London, and I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in their way to, for them to do what they feel is right for themselves.
“It’s not something that I would do personally. But I certainly understand why some of the guys have went, and it’s something that we are all just going to keep an eye on and see what happens over these next few weeks.”
Next week’s opening LIV event at Centurion Club in St. Albans, north of London, will have the largest purse in golf history at $25 million — almost double that of any major, with $5.5 million going to the winner.