Those who preside over the US Open have suggested golfers who have signed up for the rebel LIV Golf Series could be banned for future stagings of this major tournament.
The former US Open champions Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer and Bryson DeChambeau are among those who have been banned by the PGA Tour after committing to the Saudi Arabia‑backed breakaway. The subject has dominated discussion in the lead-up to the third men’s major of the year, at the Country Club in Brookline. The PGA Tour has no direct power over the US Open but relationships within golf’s ecosystem are strong.
When asked whether he can envisage a scenario in the future where the LIV group are blocked from US Open participation the USGA’s chief executive, Mike Whan, said: “Yes.” Asked to expand on this position, Whan said: “I just answered the question, ‘Could I foresee a day? Yeah, I could foresee a day.’ 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.”
Whan revealed the USGA gave late consideration to preventing LIV golfers from playing in this 122nd staging of the US Open, but ultimately believed that unfair and impractical. “We ran this championship by asking ourselves, did those people disqualify themselves from the 2022 [US] Open? We believed the answer to that was no and that’s the decision we made.
“I get it; it’s a news story. We’re not going to run away from the news story. We had to make some tough decisions that not everybody agrees with. Where this will go, I don’t know.”
Those players who have formed part of the Saudi scheme have drawn sharp criticism from an organisation formed by the families of some of those killed in the 11 September atrocity. A letter, stating those players had “sold us out”, was sent to the agents of Johnson, DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Kevin Na. All are in this US Open field.
“We have complete support for the 9/11 families,” Whan said. “Listen, we’re all Americans, and if anybody doesn’t remember that day, then shame on you. That’s alive and well in my head. I remember where I was, what I was doing, who I was talking to when the first plane went in. We lost a couple of neighbours. But as it relates to the USGA and this championship, that was the decision we had to make a week ago, and that’s the decision we made.”
The R&A are fully expected to apply the same policy to those exempt for the Open Championship, which takes place next month in St Andrews. More interesting is what position the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, will take in respect of the Scottish Open. The DP World and PGA tours work in strategic alliance.
The US Open prize fund has risen to $17.5m. The winner on Sunday will walk away with a cheque worth $3.15m. “What we do in a US Open, we endeavour to have the players get every club in their bag dirty,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s chief championships officer. “We want to examine every aspect of their game. So when they win a US Open, it’s something special.”
Rory McIlroy, who is seeking to win a fifth major title almost eight years since his fourth, arrives in Massachusetts fresh from victory at the Canadian Open. England’s Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur Championship here in 2013.
Small greens means a premium is placed on approach-shot accuracy. “We are praying that will change,” Whan said in respect of such little focus being on the tournament itself in the buildup.
Good luck with that.