LONDON: Players who have signed up to the breakaway Saudi-backed LIV Golf series will be allowed to compete in next month’s 150th British Open, organizers the R&A announced on Wednesday. The US PGA Tour has banned those involved in the rebel venture after the inaugural event in Britain earlier this month but organizers of last week’s US Open did not follow suit. That stance will be followed at the year’s final major, which starts at St Andrews in Scotland on July 14. “The Open is golf’s original championship and since it was first played in 1860, openness has been fundamental to its ethos and unique appeal,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.
“Players who are exempt or have earned a place through qualifying for the 150th Open in accordance with the entry terms and conditions will be able to compete in the championship at St Andrews. “We are focused on staging a world-class championship in July and celebrating this truly historic occasion for golf.” Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka is the latest big-name player to defect to the LIV Golf circuit, along with Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, the world number 20.
Koepka, 32, is expected to make his debut on the money-spinning circuit at its maiden US event in Oregon next week. Koepka’s management team did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP on Tuesday. The American, who has removed “PGA Tour” from his Twitter profile, will follow a clutch of stars including Dustin Johnson and six-time major-winner Phil Mickelson by joining LIV. The series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has plunged the golf world into turmoil since its emergence.
LIV Golf has drawn stinging criticism from human rights groups, which say the series is an attempt to boost the kingdom’s image through sport. The PGA Tour has adopted a zero-tolerance stance towards the series, with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspending 17 former or current tour players for making the switch after the start of the inaugural event near London. He made it clear that other golfers who signed up would suffer a similar fate.
PGA Tour revamp
Reports on Tuesday said the PGA Tour was planning to revamp its schedule with a series of lucrative new tournaments-the clearest indicator yet of a strategy to combat the rise of LIV Golf. Monahan is understood to have explained proposed changes to the schedule at a packed meeting of players ahead of this week’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut. Plans outlined by Monahan include boosting purses to at least $20 million in eight existing marquee tournaments and the introduction of three new $25 million tournaments that would feature no cuts and limited fields. The schedule overhaul could be in place by the 2023 season.
LIV Golf has steadily been luring star names to sign with the upstart circuit that offers $25 million in prize money for each of its 54-hole tournaments. Other changes proposed by Monahan on Tuesday included a return to a calendar year schedule running from January to December. The current “wraparound” season starts in the North American autumn and is unpopular with some players who complain it does not allow for a clearly defined off-season.
Speaking at the Travelers Championship on Tuesday, defending champion Harris English said he hoped the PGA Tour’s proposed revamp could persuade players to remain with the circuit. Patrick Cantlay described the PGA-LIV confrontation as a fight to attract and retain talent. “If the PGA Tour wants to remain the pre-eminent tour for professional golfers, it has to be the best place to play for the best players in the world,” he said. – AFP