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Saudi golf league gains another star in Dustin Johnson, unable to woo Tiger Woods

Golf legend Greg Norman, who heads the Saudi breakaway competition, said Woods was offered nearly $1 billion to play.
Players practice on the driving range ahead of the forthcoming LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The new, Saudi-funded golf league continues to gain momentum ahead of its launch in the United Kingdom on June 9. 

American golfer Dustin Johnson resigned from the PGA Tour today and is now confirmed to be playing in the LIV Golf Invitational, according to the league's website. Johnson is a major name in the sport, having won the US Open in 2016 and the Masters in 2020. 

LIV Golf also confirmed yesterday that American golf great Phil Mickelson will play in the invitational. 

In May, English golfer Lee Westwood declared his intent to play, and his participation is also now confirmed. 

Why it matters: LIV Golf is seeking to compete with the PGA Tour, which is the dominant golf competition in the United States. Mickelson and Greg Norman, the Aussie golf legend who leads LIV Golf, have been critical of the PGA Tour for years. 

LIV Golf is funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and has reportedly been offering star golfers more than $100 million to join. 

The Saudi connection has attracted controversy due to the Gulf state’s poor human rights record, with some accusing them of engaging in “sportswashing.” 

Mickelson addressed the issue earlier this year in a controversial interview, calling Saudis “scary.” He also described the kingdom’s "horrible record on human rights,” specifically the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi and repression of gay people. Mickelson added that he felt Saudi Arabia’s wealth was needed to create a rival to the PGA. 

While Mickelson later claimed some of his comments were taken "out of context," he has kept up criticism of the PGA.

Norman has sought to defend Saudi Arabia from the criticism. Last month, he described a “cultural change” in the country.

The PGA Tour has fought back against LIV Golf and last month denied players’ leave requests to play in the Saudi competition. This is what prompted Johnson to formally resign from the PGA. 

Know more: The lure of money has not been enough to bring some golf stars to LIV Golf. Yesterday, Norman told The Washington Post that Tiger Woods turned down close to $1 billion to play. 

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