Why Are LIV Golfers Not Allowed To Play In The WGC-Match Play?

Several LIV Golf players who reportedly tried to compete this week had their applications denied, but why?

Dustin Johnson walks across the bridge towards the 14th tee box at the 2022 WGC-Match Play
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It was reported earlier in the week that several LIV Golf players, including Patrick Reed, had been denied the chance to play in this week’s WGC-Match Play.

But why is that considering the Austin Country Club tournament is one of the World Golf Championships, which are part of the International Federation of PGA Tours (which encompasses tours worldwide) and not solely the PGA Tour, which has suspended LIV Golf players? To answer that question, it’s helpful to consider which LIV Golf players may have felt they had a case to play in the tournament and why.

The WGC-Match Play is open to the top 64 players in the Official World Golf Ranking as it stands after The Players Championship. Of course, some of those players invariably miss the event for one reason or another, and, on this occasion, PGA Tour players Justin Thomas and Justin Rose are absent.

That would extend the cut-off to World No.66, with LIV Golfers Cameron Smith, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Thomas Pieters, Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Mito Pereira, Dustin Johnson and Reed all still above that threshold despite their drop down the world rankings in recent months.

The DP World Tour is one of the circuits co-sanctioning the event. So, even though LIV Golf players are suspended from the PGA Tour, shouldn’t those with DP World Tour memberships, at least, have a strong case for playing? After all, those players, one of whom is Reed, can still compete on the DP World Tour pending the outcome of the hearing to determine their futures on it.

The answer lies with the PGA Tour, which reportedly denied the applications because they are “subject to acceptance by the Host Tour and the International Federation of PGA Tours and may be rejected or revoked by either without liability at any time before or after commencement of Tournament play if a player fails to meet the eligibility requirements... (or) violates any of the Tournament Regulations of the Host Tour."

That last line is where the PGA Tour could wield its authority, because it insists that players competing in LIV Golf tournaments have violated its Conflicting Events Regulation. That rule requires releases for overseas tournaments, which the LIV Golf players didn’t secure, and is at the heart of why they were suspended by the PGA Tour to begin with.

Because those LIV Golf players are deemed in violation of the PGA Tour’s rules, it has the power to prevent them entering World Golf Championships, which it has - predictably - taken advantage of.  

As a result, several LIV Golf players who would have been eligible aren't and several more players beneath the World No.66 threshold, including last week’s World No.77 Justin Suh, are in the field for this week's event.

Mike Hall
News Writer

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.