Friday, June 21, 2024

LIV exemptions into future US Opens a real possibility – John Bodenhamer – Irish Golfer Magazine

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U.S. Open Final Qualifying is known as the ‘Longest Day in Golf’ and, in total, 17 LIV players were attempting to play their way into the longest running major championship to be held on U.S. soil.

Despite the large LIV presence, only two of the 17 managed to play their way in with David Puig and Dean Burmester booking their trips to Pinehurst later this month. The likes of Joaquin Niemann, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Graeme McDowell all missed out, and while the latter trio’s best days are behind them, Niemann remains one of the leading players in the game.

The Chilean received special invites to both the Masters and the PGA Championship, but given the cutthroat nature of U.S. Open Final Qualifying, securing his third major championship start of 2024 was always going to be a tough task.

But according to USGA Chief Championship Officer, John Bodenhamer, future U.S. Opens may see certain LIV players not otherwise exempt being able to receive invitations through performance on the LIV Tour.

“From the beginning, we’ve been open, you earn your way in you get to play whether it’s through qualifying or exemption as the past champion,” Bodenheimer told Golf Channel. “You know we’ve watched what is happening in professional golf unfold and we’ve seen a lot of good players go over to LIV & so we’re thinking a lot about it, we’ve talked a lot about it.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect that at some point yes, we would create a pathway or someway that we would get those great players, give them an opportunity to be unified again, we get a lot of them and there will be a lot that will play this week through exemption, a number of past champions and qualifiers so yeah, I think we’re looking very seriously at that.”

This follows on from comments by USGA CEO Mike Whan back in May when he confirmed that an exemption category for LIV Golfers wouldn’t be in place for 2024, but that the USGA were continually monitoring the situation and would possibly change the criteria for 2025.

“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,” Whan told 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.”

It’s almost a year since the PIF, PGA and DP World Tours announced the formulation of the framework agreement, but as yet, the waters remain as muddied as ever, so that the USGA are thinking hard and are likely to open up a pathway for LIV players will be music to their ears.

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