Bryson DeChambeau says turning his back on the PGA Tour and joining the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series was “a business decision, first and foremost”.
“There were a lot of financials to it and a lot of time,” said the American, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour.
“I get to have a life outside of the game of golf as well. [It’s] a business decision for my family’s future.”
DeChambeau intends to play the final seven LIV Golf events this year, beginning with a debut appearance at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland on 30 June.
The first of seven 54-hole, $25m (£20m) events took place at Centurion Club, in Hertfordshire, last weekend – with former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel claiming victory and $4.75m (£3.86m) in the most lucrative tournament in the sport’s history.
The eight-event series, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), has a prize fund of $250m for 2022, while an extra £1.6bn has been secured to expand it to a 14-event league by 2024.
So far 17 players, including six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, have been suspended from the PGA Tour indefinitely for taking part in the opening event. Many have resigned their PGA Tour membership.
“It’s not my decision to make. That’s someone else’s decision that’s making that for me,” DeChambeau said on his PGA Tour future.
The American said he has not resigned his membership and hoped to keep playing on the PGA Tour – although he has pulled out of next week’s Travelers Championship.
Compatriot Justin Thomas, who along with Rory McIlroy has emerged as a strong advocate for the PGA Tour, said he has lost sleep over the split in men’s professional golf.
“I tossed and turned and lost a lot of sleep last week thinking about what could potentially happen,” Thomas said. “I grew up my entire life wanting to play the PGA Tour, wanting to break records, make history, play Presidents Cups, play Ryder Cups.
“The fact that things like that could potentially get hurt because of the people that are leaving, and if more go, it’s just sad.
“It’s astronomical money that they’re throwing at people. I’ve talked to some of my peers that have asked me questions but I’m like, ‘you’ve got to do what’s best for you or what you think is best for your career, but selfishly I don’t want you to go’.
“All I can do is plead my case. But everybody out here is a grown-up, they can make their own decisions.”
A letter criticising the US players who have joined the LIV Golf tour has been written by Terry Strada, the national chair of 911familiesunited.org.
The 9/11 terror attacks on the United States killed almost 3,000 people in 2001 and, according to an FBI declassified document, 15 of the 19 plane hijackers in the attack were Saudi nationals.
Saudi Arabia’s PIF has Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as its chairman. A declassified US intelligence report released in February 2021 asserted that Bin Salman was complicit in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – an allegation he has denied.
The Gulf state is among those accused of investing in sport and using high-profile events to ‘sports wash’ its reputation in other parts of the world.