USGA Chief Buries Greg Norman & Jay Monahan’s Failed Attempts With a Strong US Open Revelation

Mike Whan, the USGA chief, sees a distinct possibility of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf existing separately. In that unwelcome scenario, the USGA chief is open to accommodating LIV Golfers by creating a direct pathway. The 59-year-old didn’t entirely rule out that possibility in a recent interview. 

Reminding that the inaugural LIV Golf London happened a week before the 2022 US Open, Whan said, “Everybody was wondering what the US Open gonna do. What’s the USGA gonna do. We said quite simply, if you have qualified for the US Open you can play in the US Open. and, I think [that] set a pretty clear message early on.” 

Calling the merger a ‘moving target’, the USGA chief revealed that as of now, qualifying tournaments remain the only option for LIV Golf pros. Whether they want to take that route or not, it’s up to them. “Nothing stopping you from playing in the US Open. Nothing ever has, nothing ever will,” Whan emphasized in the conversation with Matt Adams of Golf Channel. As of now, nine LIV Golfers are already qualified for the US Open, per Golf Channel. Here is the full list.  

Brooks Koepka Through 2028
Jon Rahm Through 2031
Dustin Johnson Through 2026
Phil Mickelson Through 2025
Bryson DeChambeau Through 2030
Cameron Smith Through 2027
Martin Kaymer Through 2024
Tyrrell Hatton Through 2024
Adrian Meronk Through 2024

A further 36 of them are in the final stage of US Open qualifiers. Whereas, a handful of players, like Talor Gooch, Ian Poulter, and Bubba Watson gave it a pass. Notably, Gooch simply answered, ‘I’m not’ when asked if he was planning to enter the qualifying tournaments. 

Traditionally, qualifying for the Tour Championship seals a spot in the US Open. Last year, in February, the USGA changed that criteria to ‘qualified and eligible’ to play in the Tour Championship, effectively ending Gooch’s hopes for the National major. Although Whan defended that as part of the board’s annual review policy, Phil Mickelson, called it a “d**k move“. 

Players like Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and others have floated the money list or the season-long standings as the criteria for major spots. Whan refused to rule out that possibility in the future. 

“I think we get some settlement that we sorta understand the future, if they are separate entities, I can certainly envision a pathway. Like we provide a pathway to the DP World Tour. We provide a smaller pathway to the Korn Ferry Tour. It’s feasible for me.” The top finisher in the KFT gets a spot in next year’s US Open. Last year, the top aggregate point earners on the DPWT, between May and June, punched their tickets to LACC. 

Meanwhile, PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF, the Saudi sovereign fund bankrolling LIV Golf, have been locked in talks since last June. Recently, PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan met with the player directors of the PGA Tour in the Bahamas. Although Tiger Woods said the meeting was positive, Mike Whan prefers to be prepared if things go sideways.

The US Open is likely to follow a different path than the Masters

In the upcoming PGA Championship, 16 LIV Golfers will participate. 13 represented the Greg Norman-fronted side in the Masters. The number of LIV golfers might be higher at Pinehurst No. 2. Whan concluded, “We don’t stop anybody from getting in and our field isn’t closed off. But even with that said, it wouldn’t shock me if things stay kind of [what] they are today, if that’s the go-forward plan. We’ll take a look at at least some of our exempt categories as well.” 

Interestingly, last month, Fred Ridley, the Augusta National chairman, ruled out any possibility of a direct exemption for LIV Golfers. Calling LIV a ‘closed shop’ league, Ridley said, “If we felt that there were a player or players, whether they played on the LIV Tour or any other tour, who were deserving of an invitation to The Masters, we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations.”

This week, the PGA has extended an invitation to seven LIV golfers. While three of them are inside the top 100 in the OWGR, the other four received an exemption based on their performance. David Puig, for example, has apparently secured a spot for his performance at the Asian Tour events. The case is the same for Joaquin Niemann, who has traversed through the globe to earn enough world ranking points and stay inside the top 100. USGA already sent a special invite to Tiger Woods and is unlikely to hand out any more special exemption this year. 

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