USGA explains why LIV Golf players suspended by PGA Tour can play in U.S. Open, but future is uncertain

The PGA Tour took action this week against golfers that have left the tour to play on the Saudi-backed start-up LIV Golf Series. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that players who chose to play in LIV Golf would be suspended from the tour indefinitely as he looks to stave off more potential defections.

Despite those suspensions, golf fans will still see the likes of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson on the course for the 2022 U.S. Open. The major tournament is run by the USGA, which is separate from the PGA Tour, and they opted to let LIV Golf participants play in the event.

“We did sit down and have a long conversation about a week before the U.S. Open,” USGA CEO Mike Whan explained at a news conference on Wednesday, per ESPN. “[We asked ourselves], ‘Did where somebody else play and what promoter they played it with disqualify them for this event?’ We decided ‘no’ on that, with all the awareness that not everyone would agree with that decision.”

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Why did the USGA make that decision? Part of the issue was that the USGA felt it would have to examine every potential qualifier’s playing history to ensure that no other player had involvement with any unsavory events.

“It becomes a pretty slippery slope to try to apply that across 9,300 people,” Whan said.

So, the LIV Golf members will remain a part of the U.S. Open in 2022. However, Whan acknowledged that the tournament could change its qualification criteria after this season. That could potentially make it more difficult for LIV golf participants to qualify for the U.S. Open in the future.

“I could foresee a day [where that happens],” Whan said. “Do I know what that day looks like? No, I don’t. To be honest with you, what we’re talking about [LIV Golf] was different two years ago, and it was different two months ago than it is today.”

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

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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 heading into the 2023 U.S. Open. And Whan claims that they aren’t facing any pressure from Monahan to expedite that despite the PGA Tour commissioner’s stance on the defectors. 

As such, LIV Golf members are free to participate in the major tournament for now. Still, Whan admitted that he and others are “saddened” by the “fracture” that is occurring within golf as a result of the Saudi-backed start-up’s emergence.

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

“I’ve heard that this is good for the game. At least from my outside view right now, it looks like it’s good for a few folks playing the game, but I’m struggling with how this is good for the game.”

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