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USGA CEO Signals Potential Pathway to U.S. Open for Top LIV Golf Players

USGA CEO Signals Potential Pathway to U.S. Open for Top LIV Golf Players

The CEO of the United States Golf Association (USGA), Mike Whan, indicated this week that the organization may establish a pathway for top-performing LIV Golf players to qualify for future U.S. Opens, even if they remain ineligible through other venues.


Whan's comments came at the annual USGA press conference ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort's legendary No. 2 course. The CEO stressed that the 12 LIV Golf players competing in this year's Open all earned their spots either through final qualifying or exemption categories that have been in place for years.


"We had 35 players from LIV that were exempted right into final qualifying. So if they really wanted to be here, they could go play 36 holes and qualify, and some did, to their credit," Whan said. “There is no out-of-bounds stakes on our field criteria … it’s not a closed field. It doesn’t require a committee or an invitation. If you want to play in this field you’ve got an opportunity to play in this field, and we’re proud of that.”


However, he acknowledged that established pathways for players on other professional tours may not suffice in the future given the evolving landscape of the sport. Whan said he and USGA chief championships officer John Bodenhamer will discuss carving out a LIV-specific avenue in the off-season.


"We’re going to talk about it this off-season, whether or not there needs to be a path to somebody or somebodies that are performing really well on LIV that can get a chance to play in that way," Whan stated. "I think we are serious about that."



Chief executive officer Mike Whan with the USGA , USGA president Fred Perpall and chief championships officer John Bodenhamer address the media during a press conference for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pinehurst No. 2. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports


The comments represent a notable shift from other major championships' stances on LIV Golf participants. While the PGA of America controversially extended an invitation to a LIV player for the PGA Championship, the R&A and USGA have held firm that LIV members must qualify based on performance, not reputation or legacy.


Whan's indication of a potential direct pathway could put pressure on the PGA Tour to resolve its ongoing legal battle with LIV Golf and Greg Norman. Tour loyalists have counted on major championship access as incentive for players to stay, but the new landscape may diminish that factor.


The USGA CEO stressed this is an issue that demands attention as the structure of the sport continues to evolve in unpredictable ways. While clear answers remain elusive, Whan made obvious the organization won't shoulder responsibility for excluding top talent from its flagship championship for long.


Only time will tell how a LIV Golf qualification process might take shape, but the message to golf's warring factions is clear: the sport's governing bodies expect resolution, and the U.S. Open door may not remain closed indefinitely.


Read more: LIV Golf and PGA Tour reportedly sign landmark merger agreement


What are the potential consequences for the PGA Tour if the USGA creates a pathway for LIV Golf players


This could really spell trouble for the PGA Tour. One of their biggest arguments against players signing with LIV has been that they'll lose the opportunity to compete in the majors. But if the USGA opens the door for LIV guys to get into the U.S. Open, that incentive goes away.


More players would feel comfortable jumping to LIV if they knew they could still chase that dream of winning a major. It might accelerate how many leave the Tour.


That extra pressure too. Right now there's so much uncertainty about the legal stuff between the Tour and LIV. But if a major is in play for LIV members, it really ups the stakes in getting this all resolved.


The Tour's sponsors and partners might start questioning their strategy if the USGA doesn't see eye to eye with them on who should get to play where. It could undermine their position in dealing with LIV.


And what about those huge TV contracts? If the majors open their fields more, it diminishes the value of PGA Tour events. Money talks in pro sports.


The Tour may feel like they have to take an even harder line against LIV now just to not fall further behind. That sure won't help mend any fences between the two sides.


I'm sure the vets on Tour would not be too pumped up seeing these incentive structures in such flux either. Can't be good for the competition out there.


Overall, giving LIV guys a path into the U.S. Open is a real game-changer - and definitely not in a good way for the PGA Tour. It really skews things in LIV's favor in this ugly battle.






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Sarah has a strong background in sports journalism, with a degree in journalism from a top university in the US. She has covered men's professional golf for over 10 years, attending major tournaments around the world and building an extensive network within the men's golf community. Her writing is known for its in-depth analysis, insider access, and ability to bring the drama and excitement of professional golf to life for readers.

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