LIV Golf rebels escape ban from Open Championship at St Andrews

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St Andrews, the home of golf, will host the 150th Open next month - STUART NICOL
St Andrews, the home of golf, will host the 150th Open next month - STUART NICOL

Players who signed up with the Saudi rebel circuit have escaped a ban from next month’s Open - but it may be the last championship for many due to an inevitable loss of ranking points. The R&A’s chief executive Martin Slumbers confirmed that, as expected, the British event will emulate the US Open in allowing any eligible player to compete at St Andrews.

However, next year’s majors could be a problem, even if the respective organisers permit LIV Golf Invitational Series competitors to play.

“What is clear at the moment, with LIV Golf being 54-hole events and not offering any world ranking points, is that the guys who are top-50 in the world are slowly going to lose their ranking and fall outside the top 50 and that’s what gets most of these big names in the majors,” Paul McGinley, the former Europe Ryder Cup captain turned Sky Sports analyst, said over the weekend.

“The only guys who will probably be eligible by the time next year comes around at the Masters in April could well be past champions, under the current criteria, because the others may all have fallen out of the top 50. It will be interesting to see what is going to happen, as there are so many things and scenarios that can play out.”

Telegraph Sport revealed on Tuesday that American Brooks Koepka is the latest big name to join Greg Norman’s lucrative breakaway series, following the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau.

For some of those names, involvement in major tournaments after the Open could now be in significant doubt. Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen have exemption for Opens until they are 60 as past winners. However, stellar names such as Koepka and Dustin Johnson could lose their exemption next year unless they win the Open or finish in the top 10. For others, it will come down to world ranking or DP World Tour ranking, which they are set to plummet on. Players could also be banned from qualifying tournaments, although the DP World Tour has yet to rule on it.

All of those who played the opening event at Centurion earlier this month were eligible to play at last week’s US Open as long as they had qualified on merit or secured an exemption through past performances. The same is now the case at the 150th Open Championship, which takes place at St Andrews on July 14-17. Slumbers has made it clear that the R&A will not seek to ban any of the LIV Golf participants from the final major of the year.

“The Open is golf’s original Championship and since it was first played in 1860, openness has been fundamental to its ethos and unique appeal,” he said. “Players who are exempt or have earned a place through qualifying for The 150th Open in accordance with the entry terms and conditions will be able to compete in the Championship at St Andrews.

"We are focused on staging a world class Championship in July and celebrating this truly historic occasion for golf. We will invest the proceeds of The Open, as we always do, for the benefit of golf which reflects our purpose to ensure that the sport is thriving 50 years from now.”

The Masters, however, is an invitational and could conceivably refuse to grant entry to those former champions such as Mickelson, Johnson, García, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel. The same applies to the US PGA.