ST. ANDREWS, Scotland. On Wednesday, the British Open organizer pointedly warned that it could change the rules for future tournaments, which could complicate the Claret Jug’s prospects for players who defect to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
While R&A, which runs the Open, has yet to make a decision on how players will be able to join the 156-man field in 2023 and beyond, the organization’s chief executive Martin Slumbers has left open the possibility that the path to one of golf’s most famous tournaments could change soon.
“We will review our eliminations and qualifying criteria for the Open,” Slumbers said at a press conference in St. Louis. Andrews on the eve of the start of the Open at the Old Course. “We absolutely reserve the right to make changes” from previous years, he added.
“Players have to earn their place in the Open and that’s the core of its spirit and its unique global appeal,” said Slumbers, who made little secret of his disdain for the Open. LIV serieswhich he denounced as “completely money-driven” and threatening “the merit-based culture and spirit of open competition that make golf so special.”
However, he made it clear that a complete ban on players “is not in our plans.”
Slumbers denied that R&A coordinated with organizers of other major golf tournaments to potentially exclude LIV players, which include Brooks Kepka, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed. But the chief executive of the US Golf Association, which oversees the US Open, said in June that the group will “overestimate” the criteria he uses to determine the field of that tournament.
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PGA of America, in charge of the PGA Championship, also declared its disdain for the LIV series, which offered players millions of dollars in guaranteed money to play in 54-hole shotgun-started tournaments without cuts. The Augusta National Golf Club, which organizes the invitation-only Masters Tournament, has so far kept quiet about its intentions.
Like other tournaments, the R&A publishes a long list of ways players can qualify for the Open next year at Royal Liverpool. This year, for example, the options included placing in the top 50 of the official world golf rankings on a given date.
The group in charge of the Official World Golf Ranking System said on Tuesday that LIV Golf, receives most of its funding from the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund, asked for “inclusion” this month and began reviewing the application.
This week, the British Open organizers have struggled to draw attention to the 150th tournament. But the turmoil surrounding the LIV has repeatedly invaded. Over the weekend, R&A acknowledged that did not invite Greg Norman, chief executive of the LIV, who won the Open twice, for this year’s celebrations at St. Andrews.
And on Tuesday, Tiger Woods used a press conference to condemn LIV.
“What are these players doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to train?” Woods asked. “What is the incentive to go there and make money in the dirt? You just get paid a lot of money up front and play multiple tournaments and play 54 holes.”
Players who moved from the PGA Tour, which came under scrutiny from the Justice Department for its efforts to maintain a roster of golfers, to LIV Golf “turned their backs on what allowed them to take this position,” Woods said.