Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are welcome to play in the US Open next week under a USGA ruling. The body prioritizes the openness of the tournament over a player’s decision to play in a rival league funded by Saudi Arabia.
Mickelson and Johnson, who are among about a dozen golfers registered for the new splinter golf league (LIV) tournament this week, have a bye for the U.S. Open June 16-19 at the Country Club in the suburbs of Boston. Both have made it known that they plan to play the third major tournament of the year.
Other players in the same situation who signed up with the new league include Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Kevin Na.
“In terms of players who might choose to play in London this week, we simply asked ourselves this question: A player who qualified for the 2022 US Open, under our known criteria, should be kept off the field as a result of his decision to join another event? And we ultimately decided he shouldn’t,” the USGA said.
— USGA (@USGA) June 7, 2022
This decision is not surprising. Golf’s second-oldest league prides itself on the open nature of its 156-player roster. None of the other four majors have set a benchmark that requires around 50% of the field to go through a 36-hole qualifier.
“It’s one of the things that sets our tournament apart from all the others. And if you don’t believe it, look at what happened yesterday,” USGA President and CEO Mike Whan said in a telephone interview.
He was referring to the 36-hole, 49-place qualifier that took place in eight US cities and one in Canada. Three others have previously taken place in Texas, Japan and England.
Criticism of the new league led by Greg Norman is mainly aimed at the funding source, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, a country with abysmal human rights record, including the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
“I realize that people have strong opinions and think maybe there should be a morality clause,” Whan said. As I told our team last night, with over 9,300 participants in the U.S. Open, if we decide to consider what’s on their sleeve, on their bag, or at which circuit they play, on what we believe is acceptable or not, I believe that we will never end. »
“We don’t scrutinize personal beliefs and who funds them,” he added. That doesn’t mean we don’t care. »
The USGA clarified in its statement that player identities next week at Brookline should not suggest that the organization supports the breakaway league or any golfer’s actions and comments.
Johnson earned a 10-year exemption following his 2016 U.S. Open victory. Mickelson has a five-year exemption following his PGA Championship victory last year. Others, like Na and Talor Gooch, were in the top 60 in the world.
Johnson and Oosthuizen are among those who have canceled their PGA Tour memberships. Mickelson could face disciplinary action from the circuit for not allowing attendance at rival league tournaments. Permissions are required under PGA rules.