The U.S. Open and Shut Case for Why Dustin Johnson Has Made a Terrible Miscalculation

Dollar signs led Dustin Johnson to set himself up as the fall guy in the nightmare created by Greg Norman and promoted by Phil Mickelson. DJ’s bank account is heading for a couple of years of figurative birdies and eagles, but his reputation among peers and golf purists will end in bogey-double bogey fashion because he missed all the signs that matter.

It’s what happens when you prioritize greed over principle.

Guilt by association: Dustin Johnson aligns with Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson

Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the 17th tee during the second round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 20, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the 17th tee during the second round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 20, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. | Maddie Meyer/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images

An important rule in real estate is that you don’t want to own the most expensive home on the street because prospective buyers will tie their purchase offer to recent selling prices of lesser homes around you.

Reputations work in a comparable fashion. If you’re a big name in your community, the potential upside of becoming the most prominent player in a risky new venture seldom outweighs the downside of being the poster child for its subsequent failure.

PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson has put himself in just such a position. Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson have already trashed their reputations in the sport, and now Johnson has stepped forward to become the best-known golfer to enlist in the rival LIV tour.

Some will praise him as a maverick who’s going to force the PGA Tour to treat members better, ignoring the fact that those meriting it are already compensated quite well. But when the renegade tour collapses, Johnson will be the golfer everyone recalls first as the guy who chased greed.

Greg Norman rationalized what plainly appeared to be the state-sanctioned murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi by saying, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.” Phil Mickelson called members of the Saudi regime “scary motherf——” and chose to align with them anyway.

That’s the character of the men Johnson has chosen to associate with now. Minimizing their failures in the area of basic human decency is the ultimate unplayable lie.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series debuts on June 9

The controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series, backed by $200 million or more of Saudi money, kicks off June 9 at London’s Centurion Club. Organizers released the names of 42 of the 48 entrants on Tuesday. Five more will come from the Asian Tour. The 48th participant isn’t known, but Phil Mickelson’s name doesn’t appear on the list of 42.

There are a number of familiar names set to compete, but none is bigger than that of Dustin Johnson. He is No. 13 in the world golf rankings and possesses victories in the 2016 U.S. Open and the 2020 Masters Tournament.

“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,” manager David Winkler texted to The Associated Press.

The inaugural LIV tournament goes head-to-head with the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open. That event’s sponsor is the Royal Bank of Canada, which has also sponsored Johnson since 2018, according to Golf Digest. As dilemmas go, that’s not even problem No. 1 for the golfer.

Like an unknown number of other players, Johnson sought PGA Tour permission to play in London. The prevailing opinion was that the governing body would give its OK since the LIV tournament is overseas; the real fireworks should have started start when the LIV tour came stateside during the heart of the PGA Tour season. Instead, the PGA Tour issued a blanket refusal of the London waiver requests.

Greg Norman’s tour will take the PGA Tour to court

It’s a given that Greg Norman and the LIV tour will file a civil suit against the PGA Tour over its refusal to grant waivers. The crux of their case will be that golfers are independent contractors who can set their own schedules. The PGA Tour will counter that the golfers agreed to membership rules that protect the players as much as the organization by granting them the ability to compete for lucrative purses not available to less talented players.

Expect a protracted court battle. In the interim, the PGA Tour could follow through with its threat to ban the renegade players from its tournaments. Where it gets dicey is with the tournaments that the PGA Tour doesn’t operate. The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and British Open fall under the control of other organizations, each with a strong relationship with the PGA Tour.

How organizers of the sport’s four majors handle Dustin Johnson and the others who’ve opted to play in LIV tour events remains to be seen. But, as much as each wants to present the best possible fields, they understand that the PGA Tour is much bigger than just the LIV and its 48 players, some of whom would never have played on the established tour anyway.

Johnson is a solid third to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the career money list, but he’s far behind both on the list by which the sport ranks its greats: major victories.

Johnson knew going in that signing with the LIV tour could conceivably keep him from adding to the two majors for several years or even permanently. He’s apparently OK with being remembered as a guy who chose money over achievements.

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