Dustin Johnson could bank record $22m prize money at LIV Golf event in Bangkok
A row over world ranking points may be dominating the agenda ahead of this weekend’s LIV Golf Invitational in Bangkok but by the end of it all the talk could be about Dustin Johnson and the biggest prize money payout in the history of the sport.
Johnson stands to bank $22m (£20m) in total if he clinches the individual championship with victory in Thailand – $4m for the tournament win and a huge $18m bonus for bagging LIV Golf’s inaugural season-long crown.
The sum would eclipse the $18m that Rory McIlroy pocketed for claiming the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour’s year-end finale and the most lucrative prize money windfall on offer in the game, by winning the Tour Championship last month.
Johnson currently leads LIV Golf’s individual standings by 39 points, with two counting events left to play on the 2022 schedule; the series heads to Jeddah, home of its backers the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, next week.
With 40 points on offer to the winner of each tournament, the two-time major champion can put himself out of reach of his rivals with one event to spare by finishing top of the leaderboard at Stonehill, the brand new course hosting this week’s 54-hole competition.
If anyone is going to ensure the title is not decided until Jeddah then it is probably Cameron Smith, who has emerged as Johnson’s biggest rival since joining LIV Golf midway through its first season, in August.
On his LIV Golf debut in Boston last month, Smith fell narrowly short of a three-man play-off which Johnson won with an eagle but the Open champion proved too good a fortnight later in Chicago, where he won by three shots from Johnson and Peter Uihlein.
The nascent rivalry between the American and Australian has added a vital competitive narrative to the series, interest in which had been driven by its novel format, presentation, growing cast of high-profile players – and, of course, vast amounts of cash.
Johnson appears to fancy his chances when play begins in Bangkok on Friday, with Stonehill’s length – it boasts three par-five holes in excess of 600 yards – and wide fairways seemingly suited to his big-hitting style.
“There’s just a couple of golf courses I’ve played that for some reason do not suit me – the tee shots, or something else about it,” said the former world No1. “But this one is really nice. It’s long with wide fairways.”
LIV Golf commissioner Greg Norman had been hoping this would be the first of its events to accrue points from the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), thereby ensuring players who have joined the series are still able to qualify for the majors.
Norman has hitherto been frustrated in his attempts to have LIV Golf recognised by OWGR chiefs, who happen to include the heads of the two tours with which the series remains in a bitter and long-running dispute.
His creative solution, announced this week, is a partnership with the little-known and effectively dormant MENA Tour, which is recognised by the OWGR and has accepted all of LIV Golf’s events onto its schedule with immediate effect.
But the OWGR responded on Thursday by saying it needed to review the arrangement before allocating any points, the latest gambit in the cat-and-mouse battle between Norman and his counterparts at the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, who have sought to freeze out players who have defied them by signing up to LIV Golf.
If Johnson does scoop $22m on Sunday it will take his LIV Golf winnings to $32m already. And if his 4Aces team carry their dominance into next month’s season-ending Team Championship there will be another windfall, with prize money totalling $50m up for grabs.