After all of the controversy and questions over who would participate, the LIV Golf Invitational Series will tee off for the first time on Thursday at the Centurion Club in London.
Dustin Johnson comes into the inaugural tournament as a +400 favorite to win the individual event, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Johnson leads 4 Aces into London
LIV Golf is new even to sportsbooks, and many don’t have odds on the London tournament. And, most that do haven’t been brave enough to post lines on the team portion of the competition: Johnson leads the “4 Aces” team, which also includes Shaun Norris, Oliver Bekker, and Kevin Yuan.
If you’re not familiar with the rest of Johnson’s squad, that’s not surprising. While LIV Golf has lured some surprisingly high-profile players to its series, the depth of competition is somewhat limited, with only five of the world’s top 50 players and 17 of the top 100 participating in the new tour. None of the world’s top-10 players are taking part.
Johnson ranks highest in the LIV Golf field as the No. 13 player in the world. The two-time major winner resigned his PGA Tour membership this week, after earlier saying he was committing to the tour.
“I’m very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it’s done for me,” Johnson told reporters. “I’ve done pretty well out there for the last 15 years. But this is something that was best for me and my family. It’s something exciting and something new.”
Johnson is far from the only notable golfer to join the LIV Golf series. Talor Gooch (+900) comes into the first event in London as the second choice to win the event. The 30-year-old has just one PGA Tour win in his career, but sits at No. 35 in the world, putting him among the top players in this weekend’s field.
Players face hard questions on LIV Golf
While the LIV Tour is awarding massive prizes to players – there’s $25 million in the prize pool for the first event, not to mention the appearance fees top players commanded – those same golfers have to answer questions about why they are playing in a tour bankrolled by the Saudi government. Many players, including Gooch, haven’t found easy answers.
“I don’t think that’s fair, but also I’m a golfer, I’m not that smart,” Gooch told reporters, replying to a question as to whether this tour amounts to “sportswashing” for Saudi Arabia. “I try to hit a golf ball into a small hole. Golf is hard enough. I try to worry about golf, and I’m excited about this week.”
Louis Oosthuizen (+1000) is among both the most prominent and the best-known golfers to jump to the LIV Golf series. Oosthuizen was among the players who resigned their PGA Tour memberships before joining the new organization.
“It was probably going to be my last year on tour,” Oosthuizen told reporters. “I always said when I get to 40, I want to do something else. Everyone knows I love being on the farm. So I was almost done. Then along came this.”
The LIV Golf event is a 54-hole tournament featuring just 48 golfers on 12 teams of four players each. The tournament will award $20 million based on individual performance, while $5 million will go to the top-performing teams in the tournament.