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Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and other rebel players to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf have been warned that it could be made “harder” to enter the US Open due to their participation in the breakaway series, with an outright ban not ruled out by the head of the United States Golf Association.
The PGA Tour have suspended former major champions Mickelson, Johnson and the 15 other players to defy release regulations and compete at the inaugural event at the Centurion Club last week, while stars such as Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are also set to be banned from the circuit.
The US Open has not taken action against the LIV Golf players ahead of the third major of the year at Brookline this week, but USGA chief executive Mike Whan has said that that could change in future years when asked about potential punishments.
‘Could I foresee a day?’ Yeah, I could foresee a day,” Whan told a press conference on the eve of the tournament. “Do I know what that day looks like? No, I don’t. To be honest with you, what we’re talking about was different two years ago, and it was different two months ago than it is today.
“We’ve been doing this for 127 years, so I think the three of us and everybody else that we work with need to take a long-term view of this and see where these things go so we’re not going to be a kneejerk reaction to what we do.
“But the question was: ‘Could you envision a day where it would be harder for some folks doing different things to get into a US Open?’ I could. Will that be true? I don’t know but I can definitely foresee that day.”
One week on from the opening LIV Golf event, the two sides of golf’s civil war have come to a head at The Country Club, with prominent supporters of the PGA Tour Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas among the favourites for the tournament.
The full ramifications of players joining the controversial LIV Golf series are yet to be clear, with American players also set to be banned from representing the USA in the Ryder Cup, but for now players are open to enter the major championships.
Whan said there had been a “long conversation” over potentially banning players from the US Open but decided not to take action.
“We definitely feel responsibility to this game, and we feel a responsibility to the competitors that play it,” he added. “We did sit down and have a long conversation about a week before the US Open. Did where somebody else played and what promoter they played it with disqualify them for this event? We decided no on that, with all the awareness that not everyone would agree with that decision.
“Whether we all like it or not, in February 30 guys played for the same promoter in Saudi Arabia with an acceptable release from the PGA Tour, and for years the DP World Tour has had an event there, same promoter. I’m sure there are players that both came through our qualifying and maybe teeing it up that are sponsored by those different - so we asked ourselves the question: one week before, if you play somewhere where you’re not approved to play, would you be disqualified for the 2022 US Open?
“We said no. And we also had to ask the question, if you’re going to put that kind of clause in, who gets in? It becomes a pretty slippery slope to try to apply that across 9,300 people.”