ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The British Open’s organizer pointedly warned on Wednesday that it may change its entry rules for future tournaments — potentially complicating the Claret Jug prospects of players who defected to the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf series.
Although the R&A, which runs the Open, has not made a decision about how players will be able to join the 156-man field in 2023 and beyond, the organization’s chief executive, Martin Slumbers, left open the possibility that the pathway to one of golf’s most hallowed tournaments could soon shift.
“We will review our exemptions and qualifications criteria for the Open,” Slumbers said at a news conference at St Andrews on the eve of the Open’s start on the Old Course. “We absolutely reserve the right to make changes” from past years, he added.
“Players have to earn their place in the Open, and that is fundamental to its ethos and its unique global appeal,” said Slumbers, who did little to disguise his disdain for the LIV series, which he condemned as “entirely driven by money” and threatening to “the merit-based culture and the spirit of open competition that makes golf so special.”
Still, he signaled that a wholesale ban of players was “not on our agenda.”
Slumbers denied that the R&A was coordinating with the organizers of golf’s other major tournaments to potentially exclude LIV players, whose ranks include Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed. But the chief executive of the United States Golf Association, which controls the US Open, said in June that the group would “re-evaluate” the criteria it uses to set that tournament’s field.
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The PGA of America, which is in charge of the PGA Championship, has also signaled its contempt for the LIV series, which has offered millions of dollars in guaranteed money to players to join 54-hole, no-cut tournaments with shotgun starts. Augusta National Golf Club, which organizes the invitation-only Masters Tournament, has remained so far silent about its intentions.
Like other tournaments, the R&A publishes a lengthy roster of ways for players to qualify for the Open, which will be held next year at Royal Liverpool. This year, for example, the options included a place in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking on a certain date.
The group that oversees the Official World Golf Ranking system said Tuesday that LIV Golf, which draws much of its financing from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, had asked this month for “inclusion” and that it was beginning to review the application.
British Open organizers have tried mightily this week to direct attention toward the 150th tournament. But the turmoil surrounding LIV has repeatedly intruded. Over the weekend, the R&A acknowledged that it had not invited Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive who won the Open twice, to this year’s festivities at St Andrews.
And on Tuesday, Tiger Woods used a news conference to denounce LIV.
“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” Woods asked. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes.”
The players who moved from the PGA Tour, which has come under Justice Department scrutiny for its efforts to maintain its roster of golfers, to LIV Golf, had “turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position,” Woods said.