The Open: R&A’s Martin Slumbers confirms banning LIV Golf players ‘not on the agenda’ in future

The Open: R&A's Martin Slumbers confirms banning LIV Golf players 'not on the agenda' in future

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers believes there is no intention of barring LIV Golf rebels from future Opens, but he does not rule out changing the admission standards.

The R&A, like the USGA, announced last month that LIV Golf players will be able to compete in this week’s event at St Andrews, though Slumbers indicated that qualifying for future events would be more challenging.

The DP World Tour penalised breakaway players £100,000 and barred them from three events, though players were able to compete in the Genesis Scottish Open after an appeal, and the PGA Tour punished members who participated in the breakaway circuits.

“Looking ahead to The Open next year, we have been asked quite frequently about banning players. Let me be very clear, that’s not on our agenda,” Slumbers said in a pre-tournament press conference on Thursday. “But what is on our agenda is that we will review our exemptions and qualification criteria for the Open.

“I never said the best golfers would not be able to play. We will hold totally true to being open to anybody, but we will look at whether it is an exemption or through qualification.”

“Whilst we do that every year, we absolutely reserve the right to make changes as our Open Championships committee deems appropriate. Players have to earn their place in the Open and that is fundamental to its ethos and unique appeal.

LIV Golf applied last week to be recognised by the Official World Golf Ranking, a process expected to last several months, with The Open currently having an exemption category for the world’s top 50

The lack of world rankings points on offer in the LIV Golf Invitational Series means players will find it harder to remain in an exemption category, with Slumbers critical of a circuit he describes as “driven by money”.

“Professional golfers are entitled to choose where they want to play and accept the prize money that is offered to them,” Slumbers added. “I have absolutely no issue with that at all. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. “I believe the model we have seen is not in the best interest of the sport as a whole and is entirely driven by money, which we believe undermines the merit-based culture and the pursuit of open competition which makes golf so special.

“In my opinion the continued commentary that this is about growing the game is just not credible and, if anything, is damaging the perception of our sport which we are working so hard to improve. “We believe the game needs to focus on increasing participation, achieving greater diversity and making sure golf is truly open to all rather than this narrow debate involving a small number of players.”

There are 24 LIV Golf players in the field this week for the final men’s major of the year, including 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and former world No 1 Dustin Johnson, although their CEO Greg Norman – a two-time Champion Golfer of the Year – was not invited to attend at St Andrews. “This is a very important week for golf,” Slumbers explained. “We are absolutely determined to ensure that this goes down in history as (being) about The 150th Open.

 

“Greg (Norman) hasn’t been here since 2010. He didn’t come in 2015. In fact, it’s many years since he’s even been to the Open. So there would have been another reason for that. So it was very clear to protect the integrity of this week.” “We decided that, based on noise that I was receiving from multiple sources, that was going to be potentially unlikely (if Norman attended). We decided that we didn’t want the distraction.

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