Rebel Dustin Johnson tests ‘strategic alliance’ by applying to DP World Tour

Dustin Johnson - Rebel Dustin Johnson tests 'strategic alliance' by applying to DP World Tour - GETTY IMAGES

Dustin Johnson – Rebel Dustin Johnson tests ‘strategic alliance’ by applying to DP World Tour – GETTY IMAGES

Dustin Johnson has applied to Wentworth HQ to join the European circuit in a shock move after being banned from the PGA Tour for signing up with the breakaway Saudi series. With more of the United States rebels expected to follow suit, it puts the spotlight on chief executive Keith Pelley and on the strength of the “strategic alliance” signed with his American counterpart, Jay Monahan, 18 months ago.

While Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, acted decisively on Thursday – the first day of the Saudi rebel circuit here at the Centurion Club – indefinitely suspending all the members, past and present, who are playing in this $25 million (£20 million) opener of the LIV Golf Series, the silence from the DP World Tour  has seemed deeply significant.

Two Ryder Cup veterans, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, have pleaded with the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – to allow them to retain their memberships and so retain their eligibility to play or captain the Europe team in future biennial dust-ups. However, it would also mean that they could still play on their home tour and be blessed with a schedule that would guarantee access to world ranking points and give them a path to the major championships.

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But it would also lead to an escalation in this golfing civil war.

It is an understatement to call this a “predicament” for Pelley and his board. Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed this week that Bryson DeChambeau had signed for LIV in a $100 million-plus deal, joining Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter as well as Garcia, Westwood and world No 21 Louis Oosthuizen, and will play in the next LIV event, in Oregon in three weeks. If the DP World Tour performed an about-turn with the “strategic alliance” and managed to extricate itself, then its sponsors might relish the chance to feature big US names at its events; particularly as LIV is ready to announce Patrick Reed as another capture and is close to sealing Rickie Fowler, as well as other US pros in Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Harold Varner. An insider called this is “ a tremendous opportunity”.

“The European Tour needs to grasp the nettle and allow all these guys to play, and it will survive,” they said. “I don’t know the legalities, but Pelley and his board has a chance to embrace this. Johnson, Mickelson, DeChambeau, and all those like Westwood, Poults, Louis, GMac… sponsors would be delighted.” Former world No 1 Martin Kaymer has also resigned his PGA Tour membership and is pinning hopes on Europe. Along with Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger, Kaymer is down to play in the BMW International in his homeland and is waiting to see if his home circuit follows the Sawgrass lead.

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“We’ll see what the DP World Tour does next week,” he said. “I guess they just want to wait until the tournament’s over until they have their own tournament finished in Sweden [the Scandinavian Mixed]. I haven’t heard anything, but I’m planning to play in Munich.

“I don’t see why they should ban us because we should focus on the big picture, and the game of golf that we promote. There’s no reason to continue to get upset.”

That event in Golfclub München Eichenried has now taken on ludicrously important status. “The PGA Tour will expect Wentworth to fall in behind them,” the source said. “But there is a growing group who believe that Pelley should sit down with LIV and talk.”

The accusation of “sportswashing” – and all the extreme negativity that spins off it – might be a big turn-off to sponsors, but there can be no doubt that DeChambeau is a significant addition.  Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive, said: “Bryson is passionate about the sport, innovative in his approach and committed to pushing the boundaries in pursuit of excellence.”

In the 54-hole tournament itself, Charl Schwartzel has a three-shot lead over countryman Hennie du Plessis going into the final round.

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