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June 7, 2022

TK Chantananuwat

Dustin Johnson

Graeme McDowell

Louis Oosthuizen

London, England, UK

Centurion Club

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Thank you guys so much for being here today. It's obviously a very, very exciting day for us at LIV Golf, and it's a pleasure to have you guys here to kick off the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series event.

We are joined here today by Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and TK. Our field is worldwide, diverse and young. TK over here is one of the youngest golfers to ever win a professional tournament. He is 15 years old.

And this is really exciting. The idea behind LIV Golf has always been to supercharge the game of golf but making it more fun for fans and for golfers. As you guys know, our format is different. We have teams, shotgun starts, no cuts. All of those things we think the fans and the golfers will really, really enjoy. We are also a startup. We are very proud of what we have created in just eight weeks time. That was when we announce the Centurion as our first tournament.

I think it's remarkable how much work has been done in a short period of time pull off a first-class event. On behalf of everyone at LIV Golf, I want to express our thanks to all of those involved who have brought us here today.

I'm now going to kick it over to my friend, Ari Fleischer, who will ask the first question.

ARI FLEISCHER: Thanks, Jane, and thanks to everybody for being here, and I want to start with the basics.

And Louis, we'll start with you and go right down the line. Why are you here? What is it about LIV Golf that attracted you?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, thanks for having me. I was excited about this whole tour starting up with being different, being something different to what we do every day on TOUR. Where I was in my career, you know, it was time for a change. It was time to do something different. Yeah, this is really exciting.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, for me, it's along the same lines. Ever since I was first introduced to this idea, I thought it was great for the game of golf. I was excited about a new format, kind of a new kind of golf that I think is great for the game. It's great for the fans. I think it's going to be very exciting. I'm excited about playing.

Like she was saying, it's three rounds, there's no cuts. It's a shotgun start. To me, everyone is playing in the same conditions, and I think we see it all the time where you can get the bad side of a draw and unfortunately it's just how it goes. Now we are all playing the same exact time, same exact conditions.

So it's going to be a really true test and whoever wins, there's no, well, maybe if I would have teed off early on the first day, I might have won the golf tournament.

It's a true test to see who is playing the best that week. I think it's exciting. The team part of it is exciting and it's just something new and something different and I'm excited about doing it.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Like DJ said, I think there's a space in golf for the traditional 72-hole format, but there's also a space in the game for something fresh and new. Shorter playing windows, kind of like 2020 cricket, if you like. I think we look at the cricket model and we look at the success they had with the IPL in 2020, there's a lot what have we are trying to do here that we feel like it's better for the fan, it's better for the players and it's just a new opportunity.

It's just something fresh and fun and speaking personally from my point of view, it's been energizing to kind of have this opportunity in front of us. It's been incredibly polarizing.

But now that we're here, I'm looking forward to getting balls until the air and really letting the golf do the talking because Centurion looks pretty awesome out there. What LIV have done here with the infrastructure and the experience for the fan, especially, I think is something really exciting.

TK CHANTANANUWAT: Yeah, I'm just really excited to play here this week. Obviously I'm really young. My golf has just started. I'm really fortunate and grateful to have an opportunity to play on prestigious courses like Centurion and play in international fields, obviously learn long side these seasoned pros.

LIV has very interesting formats, draft, shotgun starts, shorter playing fields, no cuts. It's like a stress-free golf tournament that I can just learn and watch all the better players play.

THE MODERATOR: We just talked about the format. And everything is very different here. We talked about, we have a smaller field, only 48 of you in the field. We have shorter playing windows. You guys are all teeing off, shotgun starts at two o'clock every day. We have the team format. Everything is different.

Out of all of those things what are you guys most excited about? What are you most looking forward to?

TK CHANTANANUWAT: I'm very excited for the draft actually if I have to be honest. The draft party is tonight and I'm more excited for that than almost the tournament even. Obviously we all know golf, we never really have teams and to have a team to play as a team and even get drafted, I think it's really exciting for me.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I agree with teak. I think the team element this week is that unique factor. I think speaking personally, Ryder Cups have been the most emotional kind of memories in my golf career, and that's because you're playing for a team, and I think players display more emotion when they are on a golf course playing for other guys.

I think, again, I think that's better for the fan that they get a chance to see guys personalities a little bit better rather than just the grind that we see week-in, week-out. There are phenomenal golf tournaments in the world, but like something fresher like this where you do get the opportunity to know guys a little bit more.

And like I say, playing in the team format, 2:00 p.m. shotgun, I think the caddies might have picked those tee times. But it's certainly going to be different.

It's going to be a lot of fun.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Obviously everything about this I think I'm excited about. The team is really, really interesting. I look back to like, obviously, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, college golf; those are some of the best times that you have playing golf.

You know, I think it brings something exciting for the fans. They can get behind a certain team or multiple, so it's going to be a lot of fun. You know, I definitely like the shotgun start. I think that's great. It's great for TV. It great for the players. But everything about the format, I'm really excited about.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, team thing definitely for me. Presidents Cup is always one of my favorite weeks on TOUR. In New Orleans, we play as a team on the PGA TOUR and it was so much fun. To be able to be part of a four-man team and go out there and know it's not just for yourself. It means you guys do well as a team this week as well, I think that's exciting. It's a pity that we don't have more golf events like that all over the world.

THE MODERATOR: I wanted to get to the draft a little more. One of the things that separates LIV Golf from what's been the practice, having teams like this. I won't give away or we won't know until tonight who is a captain, who is not a captain, so we don't know now.

But if you're a captain, what do you look for in who you're going to draft, and if you're going to get drafted, what does that mean and how does that fit into golf?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: I think if you get picked, you're going to be first, nervous. You need to show that guy that picked you, well, I need to play well because he picked me.

But I think if you're the guy picking, you're probably going to look at whoever is playing some good golf, who played decent last week, who is the guy that sort of everyone is following and playing some proper golf. Yeah, probably make a decision on that.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: First of all, hopefully I am a captain, I'm not sure why, but we'll see tonight, I guess.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Decent chance, I think.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it's fine. Like he said, you're going to look who the players you can pick and who is playing the best. And hopefully you choose right that week, or for the year. I think this year is going to be a little different. I'm not really sure how it's going.

But this week, you're going to have a list of players, and hopefully you pick who is playing best.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think as a team captain there's a lot of responsibility. Obviously you're out there trying to take care of your own business as an individual but the team you pick could really mean a huge amount come the weekend.

You could play great and have three guys that don't play so well, and you're not going to cash in the team contest, and the converse could be true. You could pick three great players and maybe not have a great week yourself and win the team.

It's really interesting. To me it's a bit like being a playing captain or a team principle in Formula I where you're trying to put the best team together, you're trying to strategize.

To me, if I was one of the captains, I would be looking hard at stats who, is playing well, who suits this golf course and very bits and pieces. It brings a new dynamic as a player where we are looking at other guys and trying to weigh them up and manage the situation and try and put the best team together.

So it's just such a new and interesting dynamic to it all, it's definitely exciting for the guys that get to be on the clock tonight like the necessarily draft. I forget how many seconds, 48 seconds or 50 seconds, you've got to make a pick. It's going to be a pretty unique TV experience.

TK CHANTANANUWAT: I think I agree with exactly what Graeme said, if you're team captain you would pick who you would want to be with, who would play best in this week and this specific course that could help you win the teams. But if I'm a team captain, then yeah, I'll probably pick some of the best players.

But I'm probably not going to be a team captain, probably one of these guys. But if I was a teammate as a 15-year-old, I would be flattered if one of these guys picked me, I would try to play my best. I'm here to enjoy the experience and have fun.

THE MODERATOR: TK, I want to ask you a question, specifically. We've already addressed that you're only 15 years old and you're sitting on stage with some of the best golfers in the world. How does it feel? Are you excited? Nervous? Tell us about what this experience it like for you.

TK CHANTANANUWAT: I think excited would be an understatement. Nervous, I've got to be honest, I haven't shaken this much to talk before, let alone play with these guys. As a 15-year-old golfer, could not ask for more. I'm really fortunate to obviously sit alongside these guys and play alongside these guys and learn from them. Definitely excited, yeah.

Q. You've won at last count $74 million just on the course on the PGA TOUR and you said on the 20th of February, I'm fully committed to the PGA TOUR? What's changed?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I think a lot over the last few months. Yeah, at that time I was committed to playing the PGA TOUR. I'm very thankful for the PGA TOUR and everything it's done for me. As you've said, I've done pretty well out there for the last 15 years.

Yeah, this is something that I thought was best for me and my family, and I'm very excited about playing. Obviously this is the first week and yeah, it's something exciting. It's something new. Yeah, I think it's great for the game of golf. That's why I'm here.

Q. There's a lot of talk about consequences of playing here. Are you worried about those consequence, especially with regards to the majors and Graeme, same question to you regards Ryder Cup involvement in the future.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Obviously at this time it's hard to speak on what the consequences will be but for right now, I resigned my membership from the TOUR. I'm going to play here for now, and that's the plan. But what the consequences are going to be, obviously I can't comment on how the TOUR is going to handle.

Q. With regards to majors?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Majors, I mean, it's, again, I can't answer for the majors but you know hopefully they are going to allow us to play. Obviously I'm exempt for the majors, so I plan on playing there unless I hear otherwise.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, from my point of view, you know, what are the consequences going to be and are they healthy for the sport of golf. I haven't resigned by membership from the PGA TOUR as of yet. I don't really feel like I need to. But I also don't want to get involved in a legal situation with the PGA TOUR. I mean, they have given me phenomenal opportunities over the last 20 years. It's just, why as a player would I want to get involved in some sort of legal situation with one of the greatest tours in the world?

You know, in regards to The Ryder Cup, it's something that I weighed up long and hard before I made the decision to come out here. I hope it doesn't affect that. When you look at the European Tour and the players that are here this week, they have done a huge amount for The Ryder Cup product. It would be a shame to see those guys kind of be, you know, not invited back, if you like.

But like I say, is it healthy for the sport? This tour is designed to be an add-on to the greatest tours in the world. The schedule has been put together such that it aligns well with the PGA TOUR, for example, and you know, we all hope that the success out here will continue to attract other players and that the ecosystem of golf, that we can all get on together. It's a beautiful start and it's not designed to be divisive. It's designed to be something that works together.

Q. Did I just hear you say that you resigned your membership to the PGA TOUR?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I did say that.

Q. So that makes you ineligible for The Ryder Cup, and was that a big decision for you?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: It was. But hopefully obviously all things are subject to change. I would just have to agree with what Graeme said. Hopefully at some point, it will change and we'll be able to participate. But if it doesn't, that was another thing that I really had to think long and hard about.

Ultimately I decided to come do this and play out here. Like I said, I'm excited about it and obviously The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and it's something that's definitely meant a lot to me and proud to say that I played and represented my country. You know, hopefully I'll get a chance to do that again. But you know, I don't make the rules.

Q. Inevitably, people are saying on social media, and even in here, that you've chosen money over your country. What would be your reply to that?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I chose what's best for me and my family.

Q. Question for Louis, Dustin and Graeme, really. You were asked at the very start of the press conference why are you here and you spoke about the exciting format and teams and how it's new. I'm sorry if this is a bit of a crash question to ask, but it is essentially about the money, that's why you're here first and foremost, isn't it?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: For me, it was where I was in my career, it was probably going to be my last year on the PGA TOUR. I always said when I get to that stage around 40, I want to do something else and not just golf in my life. I wanted to try something else. I mean, everyone knows I love being on a farm and being outside and do stuff.

So I was almost done, and along came this opportunity where you know, I can do four years of this and be faster time spent with my family after this. I can do what I want to do. And the format and the whole way this was set up was just so exciting; it reminded.

Me of being part of Presidents Cup, and I just said, why not? I was going to give this a shot.

I made the decision. It was a decision between me and my wife and what's best for where I was right now, and I'm going to grab it and play. And yeah, I'm a professional golfer. It's decent money we're going to play for, so why not?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, for me too, kind of the same things. I've done well on the PGA TOUR. Obviously you all know that. Very thankful for what they have given me, too.

But this was, yeah, it's just something different. You know, I'm with Louis; I don't want to play golf for the rest of my life, which I've felt like I was probably going to have to do.

You know, for me, this is something new. I like to do a lot of other things besides golf, and I think this gives me opportunities to spend more time with my family. Gives me an opportunity to spend more time doing the things that I love to do, and it's exciting. Like he was saying, it's an exciting time and it's exciting for the game of golf, and I'm excited to be a part of it.

GRAEME McDOWELL: From my point of view, I think the financial side of the sport always weighs into the schedule. I think TK has this all ahead of him.

But myself, Dustin and Louis, we have played all around the world for 20 years, chasing paychecks. It started with the with the majors and The Ryder Cups. It's a business. Yes, we love the sport, we love competing but you know, purse that we are playing for any given week, appearance money, you know, we're running a business here. It's like the sacrifice that we make being away from our families -- I hate to use the word "sacrifice." We are all here playing golf for a living; it's a pretty sweet life.

But still, you're away from your family 30, 35 weeks a here. It has to be worth it financially, otherwise it's a big sacrifice you're making for no reason. You're always weighing up from a business point of view: What is the best financial outcome for me for my time spent.

I'm in a similar situation to Louis where, you know, I hope there's a few more years left in the tank but there are no promises left on the PGA TOUR. And an opportunity like this comes along where you can play the last three or four years of your career, in a very financially lucrative environment, it would be crazy to walk away from that as a businessman.

It's hard, but you know, we do play for trophies. We love to compete. TK's still got a pure heart in there (laughter). But yeah, listen, trophies are great. Like I say, it really is a business when you've been out here for so long and you've got families and stuff left at home.

Q. DJ, is it fair to say that you agonized over this, maybe not agonized, but went back and forth a good bit in the last ten days, two weeks, what have you? And secondly, did you or anybody on your team reach out to the representatives of the majors to get any sense if that could be an issue going forward?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yes, I definitely was, you know -- weighed hard and long about this, talked to everybody on my team, my family. We all have talked about it, you know, multiple times, especially over the last six months. Then obviously earlier in the year, yeah, I had a lot of calls.

Yeah, I've definitely spoken to them. Obviously I can't really comment on what they said but I spoke to everyone that I could, and ultimately made my decision.

Q. How do you reconcile your decision to be here with Saudi Arabia's human rights record?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, listen, I mentioned it earlier. This has been incredibly polarizing. I think we all agree up here, take the Khashoggi situation; we all agree that's reprehensible. Nobody is going to argue that fact.

But we are golfers. Speaking personally, I really feel like golf is a force of good in the world. I just try to be a great role model to kids. I know what the game of golf has taught me. I love using the game of golf as something to kind of help grow around the world. That's pretty much what we've been for the last 20 years, being role models for kids and try to use this game, like I say, as a force of good really.

We are not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but we are really not, unfortunately. We are professional golfers. If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey using the game of golf and the abilities that we have to help grow the sport and take them to where they want to be.

TK CHANTANANUWAT: For me, I'm just here to play golf. Like I said earlier, I'm just here for the experience. I'm here to learn, and what Graeme said, I'm not a politician. If I'm going to be worried about anything other than the golf, it's probably trying to remember my physics equation or finish my English essay in time for when I get back to school.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: For me, exactly what Graeme said. If I was going to say it, I would pretty much say the exact same thing. I'd agree with what Graeme said.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, there's not much to be said than that.

Q. We heard last night that Phil Mickelson is joining. We also all know what Phil Mickelson said in that interview about the Saudis. First of all, what's your view on Phil joining but as a corollary, we just have to ask, did any of you have any qualms at all about making this decision or was it just a financial one?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: That was a lot of questions in one. Do you mind just starting with one question? (Laughter) I'm sorry. That was too many for me.

Q. Two questions are: What about Phil, and do you have any -- did you have any qualms about the decision you took?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: On Phil, I mean, obviously Phil is a huge icon in the game of golf. Don't agree with what he said in his interviews. I think he's come out and apologized for that a bunch.

But you know, Phil is great for LIV Golf. He's great for this new opportunity. He brings a lot of eyes. He's been great for the game of golf. He's been a great ambassador. I've known Phil for a long time. Played tons of golf with him, and I'm excited. I'm glad he's a part of this and I'm excited for him to come and play with us. I think all it does is add more value to us and to what we are trying to do.

Q. Ari, you Tweeted in 2011 about Saudi Arabia spending billions, hundreds of billions so they won't be overthrown. Is this golf series planned, so Mohammed bin Salman won't be overthrown, potentially to protect him? Is that what you're working towards?

ARI FLEISCHER: I'm happy to talk to you about that off line. Anything I Tweeted about prior to LIV, when you look at world relations, that was a long, long time ago.

Q. And to the guys, particularly Graeme, you are now effectively working as an extension of Saudi PR. You talked about how the series is a force for good and the journey you've been told about Saudi Arabia is on. How is that journey helping the women oppressed in Saudi Arabia; the migrant groups, their rights violated; the LGBTQ individuals who are criminalized; the families of the 81 men who were executed in March and those being bombed in Yemen?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I wish I had the ability to be able to have that conversation with you. You know, I think as golfers, if we tried to cure geopolitical situations in every country in the world that we play golf in, we wouldn't play a lot of golf. It's a really hard question to answer. You know, we're just here to focus on the golf and kind of what it does globally for the role models that these guys are and that we are, and yeah, that's a really hard question to get into.

ARI FLEISCHER: Thank you very much. Thank you for being here. We look forward to playing some golf.

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