Why We Need LIV Golfers To Play In The Majors
The Majors are the pinnacle of elite golf and should be contested by the best of the best
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Speaking at the LIV Golf event in Bangkok last weekend, Cam Smith talked about how “heartbroken” he would be if not invited to play in The Masters next April. That made me think more on the issue of why we need LIV golfers to play in the Majors, whether we’re in favour of the renegade circuit or not.
Imagine The Masters without the defending Open Champion, a man who has finished in the top-10 at Augusta in four of his last five appearances, including a tie for third last year. Imagine The Masters without six of the last 12 champions in the field… That’s what we’ll have if LIV Golf players are not invited to Augusta in 2023.
The Masters Tournament is yet to confirm whether LIV players will be invited to play next year. Although there was no official announcement, reports suggested Augusta was in support of the PGA Tour and, according to a lawsuit originally filed by 11 former PGA Tour players back in August, Augusta National threatened to uninvite LIV golfers from next year's event if they left the PGA Tour. It remains to be seen if that will happen but, if it did, the 90-odd field for the 2023 Masters would be missing some 15 or so players who would have previously met the criteria for an invitation. That would be disappointing for golf fans and, I think, damaging for the sport.
The Majors are, and should remain, the very pinnacle of golf in both the men’s and women’s games. There has to be an event or events in sport that offer the winner the chance to be the undisputed best – For instance, in golf, the winner of The Open Championship is declared “The Champion Golfer for the Year.” There should be no caveats to that. The man who dons the Green Jacket at Augusta next April should feel only elation at his success, not face lingering questions that 10 or more potential winners were not in the field.
LIV Golf has already divided golf to a certain extent, with battle lines drawn on both sides. I think The Majors should stand above the squabbling. It’s absolutely fair for the organisations who run the big four events to make their position on LIV clear, as Martin Slumbers of The R&A did at The Open at St Andrews. There, he said, “We believe it (LIV) undermines the merit-based culture and the spirit of open competition that makes golf so special. I would also like to say that in my opinion the continued commentary that this is about growing the game is just not credible.”
But he went on to confirm that The R&A would not ban LIV players – The Open is exactly that, “open” and so all professionals are able to enter if they meet the qualifying criteria, or they can try to make it through qualifying for the main event. The USGA and PGA of America have taken similar positions.
The Masters is different in that they invite competitors, so it’s far more straightforward for them to simply not invite competitors. But I think it would be detrimental for them to take that approach. The Majors don’t need to say, “You’re either with us or against us.” They should rather say, “You either meet our qualification criteria or you don’t.” And they should include those who do meet the criteria to safeguard their events as the ultimate in men’s elite golf.
The decision on Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points for LIV players will be extremely important for the Majors. If LIV doesn’t get points, then players on the breakaway tour (those who are not past champions of Majors or finished well in the events in 2022) will struggle to meet automatic qualifying criteria. If it does get points, the strength of the LIV fields could mean more LIV players meeting current qualifying criteria.
The Majors should and will be working closely with OWGR to find a solution that secures the maximum possible strength of their fields going forwards. The Majors provide an arena for the best golfers in the world to do battle and to see who comes out on top. If some of the best golfers have pledged allegiance to the LIV Tour then so be it, let’s see if those representing the old guard can see them off!
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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