LIV Golf’s players are banned from the PGA Tour, but they can still play in the Majors if they meet the qualifying criteria.
While LIV’s battle for Official World Golf Rankings status means many of their players face uncertainty over their places in the game’s Majors, the rebel Tour will still be well-represented at 2023’s Grand Slam events thanks to exemptions.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman believes all of his players should be eligible to qualify for golf’s biggest events and says it would be “wrong” for OWGR not to include the Saudi-backed series’ events. But a lack of status has seen LIV’s players slide down the world rankings, impacting their hopes of appearances at The Masters, US PGA Championship, US Open, and The Open ahead of their 2023 season.
The rebel series struck a “strategic alliance” with the little-known MENA Tour to boost hopes of their rankings points status being fast-tracked, but they are yet to be given the nod.
Unless already exempt, a place among the world’s top 50 (or 60, depending on the event) players is the best way to guarantee a spot at the big four events, meaning star names such as Branden Grace, Talor Gooch, Lee Westwood, and Ian Poulter could all be missing from the Majors in 2023.
Speculation around LIV players’ absence from the Majors led Golf Saudi boss Majed Al Sorour to suggest that LIV’s stars could play in ‘Majors’ created just for them. How those events would differ from any other LIV tournament is unknown but, realistically, the Saudi-backed series’ stars want to play in the game’s historic Majors.
LIV’s 2023 roster boasts 12 Major champions, including reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, and a total of 22 Major titles. Their players have won 12 of the last 26 Grand Slam events.
The current rules see any Major winner exempt for five years for all four tournaments. Additionally, Masters winners are exempt at Augusta for life, and PGA Championship winners can play every future event until they choose not to. Open champions are exempt until they’re 60 years old, while US Open winners are guaranteed an invite for 10 years.
The PGA Championship also invites any players who have featured in the most recent Ryder Cup and who are ranked inside the World’s Top 100, which could prove useful for Poulter, Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, and Bernd Wiesberger.
But which LIV players will we definitely see among the fields at next year’s Majors, assuming exemption and qualifying rules aren’t changed?
Cameron Smith, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, and Patrick Reed have all won Majors in the last five years, meaning they should be at all of next year’s events.
Bubba Watson, Garcia and Charl Schwartzel, along with Mickelson, Johnson, and Reed, have lifetime invites to the Masters as former champions, so we’ll see also them at Augusta, while Martin Kaymer, Mickelson, and Koepka can all play the PGA Championship for life thanks to their wins.
Smith, Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, and Louis Oosthuizen can play in The Open Championship until they’re 60, while DeChambeau Koepka, Johnson, and Kaymer will be invited to the US Open.
Which LIV Golf players can play at The Masters?
18 LIV players will tee it up at Augusta, including six past champions – all of whom will also attend Scottie Scheffler’s Champions Dinner.
Sergio Garcia (Winner 2017)
Dustin Johnson (Winner 2020)
Phil Mickelson (Winner 2004, 2006, 2010)
Patrick Reed (Winner 2018)
Charl Schwartzel (Winner 2011)
Harold Varner III
Bubba Watson (Winner 2012, 2014)
Will LIV players be banned from the Majors?
It seems highly unlikely. The four Major tournaments want their past champions in the field and they want to ensure the best players are in the event to ensure it’s as strong as possible. Winning a Major is the highlight of your career, but all players want to do it by beating the strongest field. If the likes of Cam Smith, DJ, Koepka, DeChambeau, and Reed are missing, then, inevitably, there will be an asterisk.
While the OWGR situation is yet to be resolved, it seems likely that LIV will eventually be granted rankings status to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the rankings.
LIV’s tournament format makes it almost certain that their events won’t be worth as many points as PGA Tour events, but they will have strong fields and therefore LIV players will have a good chance to make it into the top 50, especially if they’re also playing MENA Tour, Asian Tour and, where applicable, DP World Tour events.
There is still the possibility that the rules could change, and champions who won exemptions or lifetime invites could see those taken away, but that would be a surprise.
The R&A has confirmed its qualifying series events and exemption categories for the 2023 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, who has previously slammed LIV, had said in July that banning LIV players from The Open was “not on the agenda”, but did not rule out changing the championship’s entry criteria.
A total of 34 places are available through events being played around the world on the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour, Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour.
The number of places at Final Qualifying has been increased by four to provide a minimum of 16 places through events being held at Burnham & Berrow, Dundonald Links, Royal Cinque Ports and West Lancashire on July 4.
However, the exemptions for players who have been part of the previous Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams have been removed, meaning new LIV signings Mito Pereira and Sebastián Muñoz, who played for the International team in 2022, have lost their expected spots at Hoylake.
There are mixed feelings among current players over LIV’s rankings status and their places in the Major fields, but golf legend Gary Player has warned the rebels that “you can’t have your cake and eat it”.
“Look, I don’t blame players for going on the LIV Tour. Let them go! If they want to go, they’re going,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “But the PGA Tour is still the tour of the world. This is where you can realise and fulfil your dreams, and be a champion.
“But when they go, they’ve declared war on the PGA Tour. They must not expect to play Ryder Cup, and Presidents Cup, play in the Majors, and all those things. You can’t have your cake and eat it. That’s the bed you’ve chosen, that’s the bed you’ve got to lie in.”
Which LIV Golf players can play in the Majors?
The Australian’s victory in the 150th Open at St Andrews means he has an exemption for all Majors until 2027, and to the Open itself until he’s 60 in August 2053.
The six-time Major champion’s most recent win came in last year’s PGA Championship, making him the oldest Major champion in history and giving him an exemption until 2026. Lefty also has lifetime exemptions for the Masters and PGA Championship, while his 2016 at the Open until he turns 60, in June 2030.
DJ’s 2020 victory at the Masters means he can play all Majors until 2025 and return to Augusta National for life. His 2016 US Open win means he can play America’s national open without needing to qualify until 2026.
The big-hitting American’s sole Major came at the 2020 US Open, meaning he is exempt through 2025 for all Majors, and until 2030 in that tournament.
The former World No.1 was the main man in the Majors from 2017 to 2019 as he won back-to-back US Opens and PGA Championships.
Koepka’s win at the 2019 PGA Championship means he’s exempt for all Majors until 2024, and for life in that tournament. His 2018 US Open win guarantees him a place in that event until 2028.
Reed beat Rory McIlroy in a final-round showdown at the Masters in 2018, meaning he is exempt at all four Majors next year, and for life at Augusta National.
The Spaniard overcame good friend and Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose in a play-off to win the 2017 Masters, making him exempt for life at Augusta. His place in Europe’s 2021 team at Whistling Straits means he’ll also play in the PGA Championship if he can remain among the world’s top 100 players.
The Swede’s sole Major victory came over Phil Mickelson at the 2016 Open at Royal Troon and saw the pair produce one of the greatest final rounds in Major history. Stenson has lost his chance to captain Europe’s Ryder Cup team, but his Troon win gives him a chance to win a second Claret Jug until he turns 60 in April 2036.
Winning one Green Jacket is a dream for most, but the American left-hander did it twice in three years – 2012 and 2014 – guaranteeing him a lifetime of invites to the Masters.
The German will tee it up in two Majors in 2023. His 2014 US Open win ensures he has two more years of an exemption there, while his 2010 PGA Championship win guarantees he can return for life.
The South African, who won LIV’s first event in London in June 2022, produced an outstanding final round to seal an unexpected and come-from-behind win at Augusta in 2011, securing a lifetime invite to The Masters in the process.
The South African was an unexpected winner of the 2010 Open at St Andrews and has an exemption for the year’s final Major until 2042. Since his win he’s finished runner-up in the 2012 Masters, losing to Bubba Watson in a play-off, runner-up in the US Open in 2015 and 2021, and runner-up in the PGA Championship in 2017 and 2021. He also lost a play-off to lift a second Claret Jug to Zach Johnson at St Andrews in 2015 and has only missed two Majors (failed to qualify for the 2018 PGA, withdrew ahead of the 2022 Masters with a back injury) since 2014!
The Mexican’s finished T9 at the 2022 PGA Championship to earn his spot in the next event at Oak Hill.
As things stand, the Chilean star will play The Masters, US Open, and The Open after making the season-ending Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.
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