Rory McIlroy makes ‘appealing’ Dustin Johnson admission as US star joins Saudi breakaway

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Rory McIlroy has sympathised with those who have decided to join the LIV Invitational Golf Series, with former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson headlining those committed to the breakaway circuit. The entry list for the Saudi-backed series’ inaugural event in London next week was named on Wednesday.

The likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia have all been named to play at the Centurion Club next Thursday, however the biggest name – and surprise – on the list is Johnson. Earlier in the year the 2020 Masters champion confirmed that he would be declining the invite to compete.

His mind has clearly changed though, with his agent David Winkle confirming the American made the decision based on ‘his and his family’s best interest’. Winkle said: “Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years. Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it. 

“Dustin has never had any issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him, but in the end, felt this was too compelling to pass up.” The breakaway circuit led by ex world No. 1 Greg Norman has sent shockwaves across the world of golf over the past year, following the controversial backing from the state of Saudi Arabia.

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The idea has been heavily criticised by some of the world’s biggest players including McIlroy, but it seems the Northern Irishman does understand why some players have made the decision to sign up. Speaking ahead of this week’s Memorial Tournament he said: “You know, you have some guys in a position where like they are literally not guaranteed a job next year.

“As we’ve seen, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. So someone that isn’t guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events, you can spend more time with your family.

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“I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position. Again, I’m not in that position, and it’s not something that I would do. But you know, you at least have to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see where they are coming from.”

Johnson’s decision to compete at Centurion next week means he will be skipping the Canadian Open, whose main partner – RBC – is a sponsor of the 37-year-old. In a statement RBC said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ with Johnson’s switch, but did add that they ‘wish him well’.

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