Padraig Harrington Suggests New Major Qualifying Criteria

The Irishman thinks four of the biggest tournaments in the game should hand exemptions to each of the following year’s Majors

Padraig Harrington at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth
Padraig Harrington thinks four of the game's biggest tournaments should offer the winner exemptions to the Majors
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Padraig Harrington thinks four of the game's most revered tournaments should grant the winners exemptions to the following year’s Majors.

The 52-year-old made the suggestion following one of the events, the DP World Tour’s flagship tournament the BMW PGA Championship

This year, Ryan Fox became the first New Zealander to claim the title, which netted him $1.53m. However, Harrington, who missed the cut, believes the victor should also automatically make it to the four showpiece events for his achievement.

The Irishman doesn't think the reward should end with the BMW PGA Championship, either, and has said it should also apply to the winners of the South African Open, Australian Open and Japan Open.

The three-time Major winner wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “I think that in order to support the great legacy tournaments of golf, the winners of The South African Open, The Australian Open, The Japan Open and @BMWPGA should receive exemptions into the four majors the following year.”

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The BMW PGA Championship has been around since 1955, when it was named the PGA Close Championship. As well as being held at the headquarters of the DP World Tour, Wentworth, it has a rich history, with some of the world’s most iconic players lifting the trophy including Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Rory McIlroy.

The South African Open has an even longer history. It was established in 1903, making it one of the oldest national golf championships in the world. The Australian Open came along just one year later, and is now regarded as the most prestigious on the PGA Tour of Australasia, while the Japan Open has almost a century of history, with high-profile winners including Ballesteros and local hero Hideki Matsuyama.

Currently, the winner of the BMW PGA Championship is granted an exemption to the US Open and The Open, but not The Masters or the PGA Championship, while the winner of the Japan Open gains an exemption to The Open the following year. However, neither the Australian Open nor the South African Open offers an exemption into any of the Majors for the winner.

Harrington's suggestion comes days after Billy Horschel expressed his disappointment that more Americans didn't play in the BMW PGA Championship. Meanwhile, it highlights that beyond the PGA Tour remain some of the game's most prestigious tournaments. 

While much of the focus on the elite game remains on the US-based Tour, Harrington clearly feels work is needed to ensure big tournaments beyond it don't get left behind.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.