LIV Golf offered US Open route as PGA open door to direct qualification for breakaway stars

No caption
LIV Golf stars could get direct entry into the US Open -Credit:No credit

Golf's top brass have given LIV Golf stars a glimmer of hope for a major pathway after the USPGA decision opened the door.

Mike Whan, CEO of the United States Golf Association, hasn't dismissed the idea of creating a direct route for LIV Golf players to access the US Open, but he doesn't necessarily see the need for it either. Currently, golfers playing on the Saudi-backed league are still unable to earn Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points. This means they can only play in the four major championships via a special exemption from the event organisers.

As discussions between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund - the backers of LIV Golf - continue with no resolution in sight, Whan admitted that a LIV track to the US Open could emerge if the two series remain separate, reports the Mirror. "If you asked me a year ago, 'What's it going to be like in three months?' I would have confidently given you an answer. I would have been confidently wrong," he confessed to Golfweek.

"If LIV stays as a separate entity and keeps the quality of players that it's got, can I envision a pathway to the U.S. Open through LIV? I can, but I'd like to see what the final product is, and we're just not exactly sure we know that yet."

As of Wednesday afternoon, 36 players from LIV had entered the U. S. Open qualifying stages, with eight already extended exemptions into the PGA Championship field: Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Tyrrell Hatton, Brooks Koepka, Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Cameron Smith and Jon Rahm.

Talor Gooch, meanwhile, was one of seven LIV golfers to receive an invite to the third men's major of 2024. The series' 2023 individual champion hasn't competed on other OWGR-acknowledged tours since June 2022, marking the first time the PGA of America has recognised a player's accomplishments on LIV.

When asked if the USGA felt any need to form new pathways for players that defected from the PGA Tour instead of simply encouraging them to qualify for championships, Whan said: "Well, it's a little bit of both."

Mike Whan flirted with the idea of a possible pathway to the U.S. Open through LIV Golf
Mike Whan -Credit:Warren Little/Getty Images

"I would say that, a lot of people forget the first LIV event happened the weekend before the U.S. Open in 2022 and a lot of players were suspended and that's kind of where the frustrations and challenges came in professional men's golf," he continued. "And everybody was wondering what's the USGA, what is the U.S. Open going to do? ".

"And we said, quite simply, if you've qualified for the U.S. Open you are going to play in the U.S. Open and [we] sent a pretty clear message early on. Last year, in 2023, we had [and I'm] not sure if I have my numbers exactly right but we had 15 LIV players played at LACC. Of the 50 players that we are calling LIV players, that's 30 percent of their tour teed it up at LACC."

Whan has made it crystal clear that players from the LIV Golf series are not barred from the prestigious tournament. He pointed out that a significant number of players have already secured their spots through major victories or exemptions into the final qualifying stage.

"I think this year between the seven or eight players that have qualified through major wins there's another 29 or 30 players that are already exempt into the final stage of qualifying," he said. Whan emphasised, "If they want to qualify, that's up to them. But nothing is stopping you from playing the U.S. Open and nothing ever has and nothing ever will."