Dustin Johnson is famous for his inexcitable demeanor, but even by the American’s terse standards, his indifference to earning over £27million in the first seven LIV golf events is extraordinary. “I did well, but I thought I would have won more, to be honest,” he said.
Johnson has already amassed more earnings on the course in a single year than any other golfer in history and with his PGA Tour earnings taken into account (before he was banned), he has the opportunity here at the Championship. Saudi-funded tag team to crash the £30m mark.
If he and fellow ‘4 Aces’ prevail in Sunday’s final, the 32-year-old will take home a further £3.5million and seeing as it will only be Johnson’s 19th event of 2022, that would mean a averaging around £1.6m each time he has done so this year, which he picked up for winning his first major title at the 2016 US Open.
It’s a stunning comeback for anyone (including Rory McIlroy, who has raised over £20m this year but from 21 starts), but Johnson, who signed LIV to a £125m deal sterling over four years, remains perplexed. “I’m actually a little below where I thought I was – I didn’t quite hit my mark,” Johnson said. “But you know, I’m pretty happy I guess.”
At least his colleagues are suitably impressed. “A lot of us have struggled in this inaugural season, because of all the noise outside and because we may not be quite up to speed with golf due to the schedule,” said Graeme McDowell told Telegraph Sport.
“But Dustin has this perfect temperament and was able to block it all out, keep that competitive edge and play incredible golf under the circumstances. It might just be one of the best golf courses of his career.
Of course, there is a paradox. Because there are no ranking points available at LIV events, Johnson, who was No. 1 in the world just 16 months ago, has dropped to No. 30 in the world. “Whichever side of the fence you’re on, Dustin Johnson isn’t in the top 20 in the world, that’s silly,” Ian Poulter said.
For his part, Johnson seems carefree. His success at the 2020 Masters gives him exemptions for the majors until 2025, then he could retire. Certainly, there is no doubt about his choice of life. “Yeah, we talked about it and I really regret my decision,” he said with rich sarcasm. “It’s so awful.”
As top seeds, Johnson’s side have a bye into Saturday’s semi-finals meaning he, Talor Gooch, Pat Perez and Patrick Reed are guaranteed £650,000 even if they lose . In their absence there are four tag team matches, Poulter taking on Kevin Na, with the Englishman knowing that if ‘Majesticks’ could find a way around Na’s ‘Iron Heads’ there would be a minimum difference of £435,000 from individual earnings. The eliminated teams received £215,000 each.
So much at stake and a measure of controversy and outrage. A group of families of 9/11 victims bought space on local TV stations to air an advertisement criticizing Donald Trump, the former president for hosting this Saudi-funded boon on his Doral course and on the roads leading to the sprawling resort, protesters marched with signs.
Trump appeared once again in Thursday’s pro-am and praised LIV organizers and criticized the PGA Tour. He also took the opportunity to shamelessly assert that the R&A is ready to stage the Open again on its Turnberry links.
“They want to come back,” Trump said. “It’s now ranked No. 1 in Europe. We did a big operation at Turnberry and it got great reviews, even from people who hate me.”
However, the R&A predictably dismissed Trump’s statement, insisting that “nothing has changed” since Martin Slumbers, their chief executive, went public with the matter following the January 6 Capitol riot.
“We had no plans to hold any of our championships at Turnberry and we won’t be doing so for the foreseeable future,” Slumbers said. “We won’t be back until we’re confident the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we don’t think that’s feasible under the current circumstances.”