By Matt Cradock published
The R&A has delivered a bombshell on the Asian Tour by stripping its Order of Merit winner exemption for the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews next year.
According to Australian Golf Digest sources, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers informed Asian Tour executives of the governing body's decision via email on Friday, with the Tour passing on the sudden news to its players' committee.
Speculation continues to grow that the R&A has made its decision because of the recent Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments venture, which is pouring £200million into a new 10-event series on the Asian Tour over the next ten years, with two-time Open champion Greg Norman as LGI's chairman.
In a statement to Australian Golf Digest, the R&A said: “We review and update our exemptions from time to time and any changes are considered carefully by our championships' committee.”
The news will be a huge blow for the Asian Tour, which only recently added the New Zealand Open to its list of Open Qualifying events, a significant step after two years of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic.
DP World Tour player Wade Ormsby currently leads the Asian Tour money list by $10,000 from Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai with only two tournaments remaining, but would see his exemption route to playing at St Andrews effectively blocked.
Speaking to the PGA of Australia recently, Ormsby, a former European Tour winner, said: “[An Order of Merit title] is something that would be great to have on the resume along with the long exemptions that go with it and the opportunities that could open for you.
“The chance to win an Order of Merit is something that doesn’t come along too often in people’s careers, so that’s definitely my main motivation at this point.”
The one upside for the Asian Tour is that, although it has lost its one and only independent Open exemption category, three tournaments it co-sanctions still retain qualifying rights – SMBC Singapore Open (co-sanctioned with Japan Tour), Kolon Korea Open (Korean Golf Association) and the recently added New Zealand Open (PGA Tour of Australasia).
Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.
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