USGA explains why LIV Golf players suspended by PGA Tour can play US Open, but future uncertain

The PGA Tour took action this week against golfers who left the tour to play in the Saudi-backed start-up LIV Golf Series. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has announced that players who choose to play in LIV Golf will be suspended from the tour indefinitely as he seeks to avoid further potential defections.

Despite these suspensions, golf fans will still see Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson on the course for the 2022 US Open. The major tournament is organized by the USGA, which is separate from the PGA Tour, and they have chosen to let participants of LIV Golf participate in the event.

“We sat down and had a long chat about a week before the US Open,” USGA CEO Mike Whan explained at a press conference on Wednesday, per ESPN. “[We asked ourselves], ‘Where has anyone else played and what promoter has it played with disqualified them for this event?’ We have decided ‘no’ on this subject, while being aware that not everyone would agree with this decision.”

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Why did the USGA make this decision? Part of the problem was that the USGA felt it should review the playing history of each potential qualifier to ensure no other players were involved in unsavory events.

“It becomes a pretty slippery slope trying to apply this to 9,300 people,” Whan said.

Thus, LIV Golf members will still be part of the US Open in 2022. However, Whan acknowledged that the tournament may change its qualifying criteria after this season. This could potentially make it more difficult for LIV golf participants to qualify for the US Open in the future.

“I could foresee one day [where that happens]says Whan. “Do I know what this day looks like? No I do not know. To be honest with you, what are we talking about [LIV Golf] it was different two years ago, and it was different two months ago than today.”

We’ve been doing this for 127 years, so I think [the USGA] has to take a long-term view of this and see where these things are going. So we’re not going to be a knee-jerk reaction to what we’re doing.

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So expect the USGA to be methodical in how it deals with LIV Golf defectors who are suspended by the PGA Tour ahead of the 2023 US Open. And Whan says they’re under no pressure from of Monahan to expedite this despite the PGA Tour commissioner’s stance on defectors.

Thus, LIV Golf members are free to participate in the major tournament for the time being. Still, Whan admitted he and others were “saddened” by the “split” occurring within golf following the emergence of the Saudi-backed start-up.

“Listen, I’m saddened by what’s going on in the professional game,” Whan said. “Especially as a fan because I love watching the best players in the world come together and play, and this is going to break that.

“I’ve heard it’s good for the game. At least from my outside perspective right now, it looks like it’s good for a few people who play the game, but I wonder what it’s like. good for the game.”

Michael C. Ford