Players who joined Saudi-funded LIV Golf can still play in all the majors — and qualify for the Ryder Cup — now that the PGA Championship and British Open have announced only minor tweaks to existing criteria.
But the main avenue to golf’s biggest events still start with the PGA Tour, and that might become increasingly difficult for most LIV Golf players.
As for the Ryder Cup, LIV players such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed likely would need to win at least one major to have any chance of earning one of the six automatic spots on the U.S. team for the Sept. 28-30 matches in Italy.
The qualifying system is 1 point earned for every $1,000 won in PGA Tour events this year, with 1.5 points at the majors and double points for winning a major.
“Any PGA of America member who is a U.S.-born player will be eligible to earn points,” Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America’s chief championships officer, said in an interview. “If the only events they get in are the majors, they would need to win one or more, or finish high in a couple of others.
“Knowing where that sixth place is will be difficult to predict,” he said. “This year has significantly different prize money.”
Haigh was alluding to 10 PGA Tour events that have a $20 million purse — at least double what they were two years ago — plus The Players Championship at $25 million. LIV players are not eligible for any of those events because the tour has suspended them.
The four majors have not announced their prize funds yet.
Johnson currently is No. 14 in the Ryder Cup standings. He is three spots behind Keith Mitchell, who was No. 25 until he finished fifth at Riviera last week and earned $820,000 (820 points).
That’s one example of the movement available in the $20 million tournaments.
The PGA Championship on Wednesday became the last major organization to weigh in, adding one category for three players from the new International Federation Ranking list for tours in Japan, Asia, South Africa and Australia.
The top three will be determined on April 24. The current leaders include Sihwan Kim, who plays for LIV Golf, and Shaun Norris, who played an entire LIV Golf season last year but is not part of the 48-man roster this year.
The majority of the PGA Championship field comes from the PGA Tour, either through winning or the money list. Officials also rely on special invitations, a vague term that presumably relies on the world ranking. The reputation of the PGA Championship has been to have the strongest field of the four majors.
“The PGA of America also reserves the right to invite additional players … in pursuit of our annual goal to deliver the strongest field in golf,” it said in a statement.
But even if it leans on the world ranking, that might not work in LIV’s favor.
The league has filed an application with the Official World Golf Ranking board and still has not received notice when it might get approved. Even then, ranking points would be significantly less than those for the PGA Tour because of the 48-man LIV fields and only six players currently in the top 50.
Of the 20 players from LIV Golf currently in the top 100, eight of them are at No. 75 and lower, and likely to keep dropping.
Haigh said the PGA of America would consider LIV Golf as it would other circuits.
“We look at other tours, money lists and rankings as we have done in the past and will do in the future,” he said. “It doesn’t stop us from seeing other good players.”
Asked if the PGA of America would consider LIV players, Haigh replied, “Absolutely.”
Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, said decisions are based on the best interest of the association and running the best championship possible.
“Sadly the current division in the professional game is not good for the sport or the future of the game,” Waugh said. “We hope there might be some resolution soon. In the meantime, as always, our focus will be on our mission to grow the game and improve the lives of our members.”
The Royal & Ancient and the U.S. Golf Association have said they would honor all players eligible for the British Open and U.S. Open. The Masters said in December it would keep its same criteria regardless of where someone played.
Among the tweaks by the R&A was to eliminate anyone who played in the previous year’s Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. That might rule out Mito Pereira and Sebastian Munoz, both of whom joined LIV this year, though it also could eliminate Cam Davis and Taylor Pendrith. They still would access through PGA Tour means.
The British Open added a category for an amateur who rates the highest in three premier amateur events in Europe. As for the Open Qualifying Series that take place at various tournaments, the leading three players who earn spots no longer have to finish in the top 10 at that event to be eligible.
The R&A did make one distinction from the USGA.
The U.S. Open exemption for the top 30 players who reach the Tour Championship requires they be eligible under PGA Tour regulations. That rules out Talor Gooch, who finished 29th in the FedEx Cup standings. The R&A had no such clause, meaning Gooch will be exempt for Royal Liverpool.
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