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TSN Senior Reporter

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Dustin Johnson won’t be playing the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto next week. Instead, he’ll be headlining the first LIV Golf Series event in London, England.

Johnson, who is sponsored by RBC, was one of 42 players named in the field for the first tournament in the upstart golf series that is being backed by funds from the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia. The tournament will start June 9th, the same day as the first round of the RBC Canadian Open.

RBC and Golf Canada were reportedly taken by surprise at the defection of Johnson, who has been a part of the tournament’s promotional material. The financial institution issued a statement that left little doubt about its displeasure.

“RBC is a proud partner of the PGA Tour. Our partnership is anchored with two world-class golf tournaments – the RBC Heritage and the RBC Canadian Open. The PGA Tour has been clear about its intentions in accordance with its tournament regulations should a golfer choose to play in a tournament outside the tour, including the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

“We were recently made aware that Dustin Johnson made the decision to play the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener. DJ has been a valued RBC team member since 2018. While we are extremely disappointed in his decisions, we wish him well.”

Golf Canada was equally disappointed in Johnson’s decision.

“Together with our partners at RBC, we are disappointed to learn at this late stage that Dustin Johnson has made the decision to play the LIV Golf event,” it wrote in its statement. “As a past RBC Canadian Open champion, Canadian golf fans were looking forward to DJ’s return this year. Our focus continues to be on hosting the widely celebrated return of the RBC Canadian Open and welcoming the world’s best players to Canada.”

Johnson, currently ranked 13th in the world, was the biggest surprise on the list of players confirmed. Earlier this year, he made a statement supporting the PGA Tour and pledging his allegiance to the organization.

In a Tweet posted by Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, Johnson’s agent explained the change of heart. "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."

While Johnson was the biggest surprise on the list, the 37-year-old wasn’t the only one. Graeme McDowell, also an RBC ambassador, is listed as playing at the LIV event, to be held at the Centurion Golf Club.

Among the other players teeing it up in the inaugural LIV tournament are major champions Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford, Talor Gooch and Lee Westwood are also confirmed to play.

There is room for one more player as well as five golfers who will gain entry through a qualifying tournament. It’s expected that the one remaining spot in the field could go to Phil Mickelson.

All the players entered who are members of the PGA Tour were turned down for releases to play the LIV event and now it remains to be seen what the punishment will be.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has stated in the past that it could be as severe as a lifetime ban.

The LIV event will have a purse of $25 million with the winner earning $4 million. The RBC Canadian Open has an $8.7 million purse with the champion claiming $1.5 million.