Patrick Reed announced as latest player to join LIV Golf Invitational Series

ST. ALBANS, England -- Patrick Reed is the latest former Masters champion to sign up for the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series in defiance of the PGA Tour and activists who object to the players promoting the kingdom's sporting project.

With Pat Perez also confirmed as joining the breakaway on Saturday, 20 players have now defected from the PGA Tour. The latest announcements came during the final round of the inaugural LIV event at Centurion Golf Club outside London, where Charl Schwartzel of South Africa became the circuit's first winner and took home $4.75 million.

The lucrative rewards for joining the series funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund have not been enough to entice any players ranked in the world's top 10.

Reed, who has won almost $37 million in a decade on the PGA Tour, is ranked 36th. The American player's only major win was the 2018 Masters.

"It's refreshing to see team golf again. It takes me back to college and Ryder Cup days," Reed said. "You're not just playing for yourself -- you're playing for your team over there and that camaraderie. I'm excited about seeing more golf. You're not just seeing coverage from featured groups -- you're seeing it from everywhere."

Having appeared at three Ryder Cups, in which he has been one of the brashest characters on the American team, Reed's decision could see him ineligible for selection in the future.

Reed, 31, said he would make his debut on the second stop of the LIV Golf Invitational Series in Portland, Oregon, on June 30-July 2.

"Talking to some of the guys after the first and second round, the energy seems so lively," Reed said. "Everyone seems so pumped and ready to go. Portland can't get here fast enough."

The 46-year-old Perez, who is ranked 168th in the world, said he wants to travel less after 21 years on the PGA Tour. He made no mention on the LIV live broadcast about the riches on offer.

LIV Golf is supported by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Salman has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including the slaying of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Saudi Arabia's track record of human rights violations has sparked criticism from groups, including Amnesty International, that the country is "sportswashing" its image by investing in signing up sports stars.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, who would not speak to the media at the event, called the series a "force for good" in a speech at the victory ceremony, without addressing criticism of the Saudi project.

LIV Golf plays up the financial largesse. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of PIF, said on stage that there would be a prize of $54 million for any player who could hit an implausible 54 at an LIV event.

Terry Strada, the national chairperson of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, has sent a letter to representatives of LIV Golf stars, calling on them to reconsider their participation in the series. Her husband, Tom, died when a hijacked plane flew into the World Trade Center.

"Given Saudi Arabia's role in the death of our loved ones and those injured on 9/11 -- your fellow Americans -- we are angered that you are so willing to help the Saudis cover up this history in their request for 'respectability,'" Strada wrote, accusing the players of betraying U.S. interests.

Strada's letter was sent to agents for Reed as well as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na.

For many in the United States, Saudi Arabia will forever be associated with the collapse of the World Trade Towers and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. All but four of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens, and the Saudi kingdom was the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaida and mastermind of the attack.

Victims' families are trying to hold Saudi Arabia accountable in New York, despite its government's insistence that any allegation of complicity in the terrorist attacks is "categorically false."

Information from ESPN's Kevin Van Valkenburg and The Associated Press was used in this report.