Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Group of householdsa Golf Digest content partner.
DUBLIN, Ohio—The old-school hit got it right, and time hasn’t aged its underlying truth one iota:
go ahead, take the money and run.
Yes, the old Steve Miller anthem. Yes, the chorus is the name, the best way to sell a 45. Not that nobody listens to music on 45 rpm anymore.
When Dustin Johnson’s parents arrived, 45s were a thing and Apple Records was a Beatles record label. Things change, often in the name of more money. Father Time may be undefeated, but so is the lure of money.
Today in golf there is a story and it is not the first round leader at the Memorial. It’s this: Dustin Johnson took the money, well north of $100 million, according to a reliable published report by James Corrigan of The Telegraph, In Great Britain. He will join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
Talk about taking the money and running. For years Johnson was a sponsor of Royal Bank of Canada aka RBC. The sponsor of next week’s PGA Tour event, the RBC Canadian Open. Johnson would have headlined the event. But he doesn’t play in it. Because he will play in the first LIV event in London instead, three days, 54 holes, no cut.
The official word from RBC is that they are “extremely disappointed”. Well, what did you expect them to say? They are Canadian!
If you know anything about Dave Winkle, Johnson’s longtime agent and president of Hambric Sports Management, there’s no way he encouraged Johnson to make the move. He spent 35 years developing relationships with RBC, UBS and AT&T. There isn’t really any math there. It’s just, “Dustin is a great guy and you’re going to love hanging out with him on the beach and at the bar.”
RBC’s money was in the millions, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t something like $100 million. So Dustin Johnson took the money and ran away. You could write a children’s book about it. It wouldn’t take long.
Dustin Hunter Johnson is a tall man with a trimmed beard who plays a sport called golf. Your mom, dad, or caretaker might “work” in an industry like hospitality or IT. But professional golfers play a sport called golf. It’s their job.
Dustin Johnson is 37 years old. He has two children and he owns Jet Skis and boats and other watercraft. He loves water. There are many photographs of him surrounded by water.
For many years Dustin enjoyed playing most of his golf in the United States in a league called the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour made him rich and famous and Dustin loved being rich and famous.
In 2020, he won an old and prestigious golf tournament called the Masters not far from where he grew up in Columbia, SC. He was happy! And her fiancé and her agent too! Also, Dustin’s brother, who worked for him carrying his older brother’s golf bag on the course and in parking lots.
You might find this interesting. All major golf tournaments allow golfers to borrow cars. Sometimes cars are returned to private airports with burger wrappers in the back seats and other trash. (Trash can be your word of the day. One day you might see it on the SAT!) Fortunately, there are other people who clean up the vehicles when they return. Very few people see these people.
Two players tied for second place at the Masters Tournament when Dustin won. One golfer was from South Korea and the other from Australia. Golfers all over the world want to play in the Masters.
But after Dustin won the Masters, his golf scores weren’t as good as they used to be. He stopped playing well in golf’s biggest tournaments, the ones that make a golfer rich and famous and the envy of his peer group. For you, your peer group might be the other children you play with at the playground. Envy is what you feel when Sally jumps on the monkey bars and rushes through and you can’t. If it pushes you to try harder, great!
Then one day some very rich men in Saudi Arabia offered a large sum of money to play golf in a new league called LIV Golf Series. No country in the world produces more oil than Saudi Arabia. The richest people in Saudi Arabia are surprisingly rich! They can buy just about anything they want! For example, they recently purchased Dustin Johnson’s golf services! Because he was so good at golf, Dustin was the envy of his peer group. But do you think they envy him now? Will he make new friends playing in this new league? Time will tell us!
Greg Norman has been saying for months now that the LIV series he leads can be “additive”, that it can make the great and worthy cause of world golf bigger and better. I would say that in theory this is true, but in real life it will prove to be false. In a sense, the PGA Tour has moved beyond its founding principles. No one would call it a tour anymore, with golf vagabonds traveling from town to town, like a traveling carnival to entertain citizens and raise money for a local charity. No one calls the Pebble Beach Tournament Pebble Beach anymore. Golfers say AT&T. Fans and TV broadcasters do too. They know who pays the bills. It’s been that way since the late 1980s.
But what remained was the peer group, the urge to play shots and get tournament results that others couldn’t. This spirit remained.
There’s too much golf on TV now. After a while, everything looks the same, except for the Grand Slam events and a few other special weeks, like the Players Championship and the Ryder Cup.
The Saudis saw an opening here, not to make money or raise money for charity or to put on a show for the locals. The opportunity they saw is to be more like modern society, with golf as an example of leisure comfort.
I guess what bothers me here is that golf and the PGA Tour have done so much for Dustin Johnson. He can do whatever he wants, of course, and he is. It does no harm to anyone here except the system that created it. He leaves more behind than he thinks.