Bubba Watson is the latest golfer to leave the PGA Tour for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league, the two-time major champion announced Friday at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Watson will join an ever-growing list of stars to leave for the rival tour, the biggest names of which include Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
Due to injury, Watson will first serve as an off-course captain and an on-air personality at the LIV Golf Invitational event in Boston during Sept. 2-4. He is likely to participate in a playing capacity in 2023, as he expects to first be ready to hit balls in the middle of October.
"Bubba Watson is a tremendous addition to LIV Golf – another major champion joining the growing list of stars on our teams. His game combines the power, innovation, and excitement that the LIV Golf brand represents," said LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman. "He's a risk-taker who has cemented his name among the world's very best and we're eager for him to come aboard to bring new energy and audiences to this league."
Watson's compensation is believed to be "in excess of $50 million," according to The Telegraph, and he is expected to be installed as a team captain for one of the league's 12 teams. LIV recently of four as part of its 48-player field for the 2023 season. Teams currently change event to event, but they will now be set prior to next season and kept in place for all 14 events.
While his jump to LIV may come as a surprise, it's been rumored for weeks after the league featured -- then deleted -- Watson in promotional material on social media earlier this year. The move likely precludes him from participating in future PGA Tour events, as league commissioner Jay Monahan has announced that LIV-bound players are ineligible indefinitely to compete on the PGA Tour.
Watson, 43, has slipped to No. 86 in the Official World Golf Rankings after missing both the U.S. Open and Open Championship while rehabbing from a torn meniscus. He has just one top-10 finish at a major (the 2018 Masters) since taking home his second green jacket in 2014. He also won the Masters in 2012.
Despite LIV Golf's growth, the PGA Tour has been able to retain a big chunk of its top talent, including every top-10 player in the latest Official World Golf Rankings. However, Watson's experience as a former major champion and one of the most recognizable names on Tour is a notable loss. He is, as Daniel Rapaport of Golf Digest noted, one of top players in the PGA Tour's Player Impact Program, which is aimed at retaining the league's top talent by offering compensation in addition to purse money for events, to leave for LIV Golf.