The LIV tour is live. The lines have been drawn and the hammers thrown down, and Charl Schwartzel has taken home the first ever LIV win in London, and yet with each declaration from a defecting golfer or a pissed-off PGA exec, more and more questions arise. The biggest one on everyone’s minds right now: Whether the LIV golfers will be allowed to qualify or play in the major tournaments.
The PGA has already said that LIV golfers like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson will not be allowed to play in the Ryder Cup, and as they run the PGA Championship, it’s safe to assume that even LIV golfers with win exemptions may not be allowed to play. As a stop on the PGA Tour, the Players’ Championship, often dubbed the fifth major, is out of the question. But what about the Masters? The Opens? What does the future of the majors look like from here?
For starters, without LIV tournament wins counting toward the Official World Golf Rankings, it’s going to be extremely difficult to get golfers into the majors. The insanely high starter offers aside, a ban from the Masters or an inability to qualify for the majors will be a huge red flag for talented younger golfers who aren’t looking for a quick payday so much as to become established stars in the sport. Stars are made on national television at Augusta, not on YouTube TV — and I’m not saying that could never change, but that is the expectation and the status quo.
LIV reportedly applied for OWGR points, but they’ll have to be approved by members of groups with a vested interest in seeing an opposing tour that is poaching their own players fail. There’s not much in it for the voting board, who are seeing some of their best players sell out, and would likely do almost anything to stop that from continuing. The best way to compete with endless money is putting your foot down on eligibility to the game’s biggest tournaments, which the voters from R&A, the PGA, and USGA will have an opportunity to do.
But for now, the U.S. Open said that LIV players will be allowed to play next weekend at their tournament rather than change the criteria this late, and the Open Tournament hasn’t gone either way as of yet, though it’s expected that they’ll follow the USGA’s lead. The Masters is tougher to figure out — Augusta is known for doing what they want, and while the tournament has a bit of a stuck-up, stuffy vibe to it, they also have a rebellious streak. It’s hard to say which direction that streak will take them, though they’ll almost certainly stick to their exemption for returning champions, no matter the tour they’re playing on. Gotta get those viewership numbers! Oh, and, tradition or whatever.
It’s really LIV golfers’ statuses for next year’s tournaments that are up in the air — qualifications for this summer’s upcoming majors are already pretty set, but 2023 could look very different depending on whether their OWGR application gets approved. LIV’s current spending spree isn’t sustainable without some sort of return on their investment.