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Justin Thomas ‘disappointed’ Dustin Johnson joined Saudi-backed LIV Golf

The two-time major winner has discussed the controversial breakaway tournament, which begins at Centurion Club this week

Jack Rathborn
Wednesday 08 June 2022 16:28 BST
Mickelson defends decision to play in breakaway Saudi league

Justin Thomas admits he is “disappointed” in Dustin Johnson’s decision to join LIV Golf and resign from the PGA Tour.

After winning the PGA Championship last month, the 29-year-old has expressed his views on this week’s inaugural Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series at Centurion Club.

With Dustin Johnson headlining the field alongside Phil Mickelson with $25m (£20m) up for grabs this week alone.

But Thomas has defended the PGA Tour and insists it is still the best place in the world to play golf.

“A lot of us are, I don't know if annoyed or tired is the right way, it's one of those things, I've thought a lot about it, people are entitled to choose as they wish,” Thomas said ahead of this week’s Canadian Open.

“I don’t dislike DJ now, I don’t think he’s a bad dude, I’m not going to treat him any differently. The day and age we live in now, it’s so negative. If you disagree with somebody, you feel you’re entitled to hate them and talk bad about them.

“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, it doesn’t make you a bad person. I’m disappointed and I wish he and others had not done it. But that’s their decision.

“Guys can do as they wish, selfishly, I know the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world. The decision is theirs, it is what it is, I just wish it wouldn’t take away from the great storylines on a tour that’s been around for a long time, and is in one of the best places it’s ever been. It’s a bummer that those guys are not going to be a part of it.”

The Masters champion and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler has also pointed to the best players in the world still playing on the PGA Tour this week.

He said: “I haven't really noticed any guys missing, maybe Dustin, the only one I've noticed. We've got the best guys in the world, five of the top 10.

“The best guys in the world are out here playing golf. I'm here to compete. I don't really know what's going on there, I don't really have much to say.”

Meanwhile, Mickelson has insisted that he “does not condone human rights violations” as he prepares to end a four-month break from the game following controversial comments about the new breakaway tour.

He described the Saudis as “scary m************” and said he was well aware of Saudi Arabia’s “horrible record on human rights” – including the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi – in an interview with the author of a new unauthorised biography earlier this year.

Yet he added that working with the Saudis was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates”, also accusing the Tour of “obnoxious greed”.

Mickelson is among the 48-strong field in the $25m (£20m) event led by Greg Norman in St Albans and the American was immediately questioned on Saudi Arabia’s much-criticised human rights record.

“I don't condone human rights violations at all,” said 51-year-old. “I am aware of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi and it's terrible.

“I understand people may disagree with my decision. I see the opportunity LIV Golf has to do a lot of good for the world.

“At this time, this is an opportunity to have the most balance in my life going forward and this will do a lot of good for the game.”

Mickelson would not confirm or deny if he has served a PGA Tour suspension, but did confirm he is “looking forward” to playing at next week’s US Open.

“I choose not to speak publicly on PGA Tour issues at this time.”

The 2021 PGA Championship champion also discussed his future in the Ryder Cup.

Mickelson said: “Like the PGA Tour, the Ryder has provided so many special memories, relationships and friendships, I’m hopeful to be a part of the Ryder Cup going forward, but that’s not the reason to retain my membership, it’s because I’ve earned it. I believe all players have the right to play whenever and wherever they want.

“I saw that [Dustin Johnson and others resigning from the PGA Tour], I believe they’re making the best decision for their careers. As a lifetime member I don’t have to play 15 events, I don’t have to play any. I don’t see why I should give that up.”

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