USGA may ban LIV golfers from future US Open tournaments

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. – Since last week, when several top golfers exposed a split in the men’s professional game, abandoning the established PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed upstart. LIV golf coursethe sport was waiting for its influential intermediaries to weigh their opinions.

Golf’s biggest prizes, legacy-forming events that generate big sponsorship money and are marked on every player’s calendar are the major championships: the Masters Tournament, the US Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. But none of these four events are governed by a professional tour, whether old or new. They are overseen by four separate organizations, sometimes referred to as the Four Golf Families (insert organized crime joke here).

These organizations are now a mainstay in the battle for the future of men’s professional golf. When the PGA Tour retaliated last week by suspending 17 players who joined LIV Golf, the looming question was whether the major championship leaders from the Augusta National Golf Club (Masters), US Golf Association (US Open), R&A (open British Championship) and PGA of America (PGA Championship) chose the side. Since they have long been associated with established tours across the US and Europe, will they reject the alternative LIV Golf Invitational series and exclude its players from their events?

On Wednesday there was a partial response, and this could not but console such big-name players as Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau as well as Dustin Johnsonwho insist they can still play big tournaments by accepting the hundreds of millions of dollars handed out by LIV Golf, whose main shareholder is the Private Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

While all players associated with LIV Golf who have already qualified for this week’s US Open at a country club outside of Boston were welcomed, Mike Wang, USGA chief executive, said Wednesday his organization would consider ways that may make it harder LIV Golf players will participate in this event in the future.

Wang was asked if he sees a situation where it will be “harder and harder” for LIV Golf players to get into the US Open.

“Yes,” he replied.

Asked for clarification, Wang said, “Can I foresee the day? Yes, I could foresee the day.”

Wang warned that the USGA would not act rashly but would certainly “overestimate” its eligibility criteria.

“The question was, can you imagine a day where it will be harder for some people doing different things to get into the US Open?” he said. “I could.”

There were other statements from Wang that did not sound like an endorsement of the LIV Golf Invitational, which had its first tournament last weekend outside London and still not enough support most of the top and bottom players on the PGA Tour. But the breakaway scheme unexpectedly attracted some top players, most of whom had pledged their allegiance to the US-based PGA Tour just weeks or days before.

“I am saddened by what is happening in the professional game,” Wang said. He continued, “I heard it was good for the game. At least from my point of view right now it looks good for some people playing the game, but I’m struggling with how good it is for the game.”

Wang, a longtime LPGA commissioner before taking over the USGA last summer, also stressed that it’s important for each of golf’s leaders to work together when evaluating what role LIV Golf will play.

“We have to see what it will result in – is it an exhibition or a tour?” he said. “I’ve said it many times, I’ve seen a lot of things start in the game, maybe nothing because of so much noise or so much funding behind it, but I’ve also seen a lot of things that won’t be with us in a couple of years.

“One event doesn’t change my vision of the future of the sport.”

And most importantly, when Van was asked, suspensions imposed by the PGA Tour caught his attention when the USGA was revising its criteria for future US Opens, Wang was quick to respond, “They’ve already done it. This has drawn our attention to this championship.”

Wang’s comments come a month after Seth Waugh, CEO of PGA of America, strongly endorsed the PGA Tour, calling it part of what he called the golf ecosystem.

“Our bylaws say you have to be a recognized member of a recognized tour in order to be a PGA member somewhere and therefore be eligible to play,” Waugh said, speaking of the PGA championship.

Referring to the LIV Golf tour, Waugh said, “I don’t know if it’s a league, it’s not a league at the moment, but the league structure is a little off.”

So what’s left for the other two major championships and their possible reaction to the LIV Golf tour, which will see five events played in the United States this year starting June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside of Portland, Oregon.

As with this week’s US Open, it may be difficult for the leaders of the British Open to eliminate players who have already qualified for this year’s tournament, which begins July 14 in St. Louis. Andrews, Scotland and will include Mickelson and Johnson. This means that the next and perhaps the first major championship forced into a PGA Tour-LIV Golf confrontation will be the Masters.

In April, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley was asked if players who joined the rival PGA Tour would be invited to play in the Masters. Ridley said: “Our mission is to always act in the best interests of the game, in whatever form it is taken. I think golf is in a good place now.”

For many years, Augusta National has always respected traditional values ​​and did not want to change. And Ridley no doubt heard what Wang said on Wednesday, if they hadn’t already discussed the matter on the phone.

On the eve of the 122nd US Open, will Wang’s statements slow down the exit of players from the PGA Tour, especially after the British Open was played?

It is hard to say. It will continue to be particularly attractive to those demographics that have been most susceptible to LIV Golf’s monetary temptations: aging players past their prime.

But if Wang’s answers to the 13 questions he faced on Wednesday included a message about the LIV Golf acquaintance or penetration, to his sport, it was that he didn’t see it as business as usual. He could be evasive about a new tour and bide his time. It is important to note that instead he suggested that this was not good for golf.

It was a telling observation from one of the most powerful bosses in golf’s major championship families.