USGA to mull potential LIV path into U.S. Open


PINEHURST, N.C. — The United States Golf Association will weigh in the offseason whether to create an exemption category that would make it easier for LIV Golf League players to qualify for the U.S. Open, CEO Mike Whan said Wednesday.

“We’re going to talk about it this offseason, 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 said ahead of the 124th U.S. Open, which starts Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2.

“I think we are serious about that. Exactly what that looks like and how that’ll curtail, I’m not just being coy, we haven’t done that yet.”

There are 12 LIV Golf League players in the field this week, including past U.S. Open champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Martin Kaymer.

Jon Rahm, winner of the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, withdrew from the tournament Tuesday because of a left foot injury.

“There [are] no out-of-bounds stakes on our field criteria,” Whan said. “In other words, this major, probably different than some others, you can get in. 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.”

Kaymer, who won the last U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, is in the final year of his 10-year exemption in the event. Phil Mickelson, a six-time runner-up in the U.S. Open, will have just one year left on his five-year exemption for winning the 2021 PGA Championship.

Three LIV Golf players — Dean Burmester, David Puig and Eugenio Chacarra — made the field through final qualifying. Sergio Garcia, playing in his 25th straight U.S. Open, was added as an alternate from final qualifying Monday.

Whan said there were 35 LIV Golf players who were eligible to compete in final qualifying, but most elected to not attempt to make the field.

“If they really wanted to be here, they could go play 36 holes and qualify. And some did, to their credit,” Whan said.

Whan indicated that a potential pathway wouldn’t be “huge.” The USGA has exemptions for the winner of the European BMW PGA Championship and the top two finishers in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai standings from the previous season, as well as the top player in the current standings on May 20 who isn’t otherwise eligible.

There is also one spot in the field for the points leader from the previous season on the Korn Ferry Tour.

According to Whan, the USGA will wait to see if the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund reach some sort of agreement before making any decision about pathways for LIV Golf League players. The sides met in New York on Friday, and a deal in some capacity might be imminent — although it seems it wouldn’t reunite the competing circuits soon.

“We’ve always felt like for the last year and a half that we’re always three months away from kind of understanding what the new structure is going to look like,” Whan said. “So before we kind of react, what is LIV going to be? What’s the PGA Tour? So we always kind of felt like we’re just about to know that answer, so let’s figure that out.

“Now, I think the reason we’re being more vocal about looking at that for next year is maybe this is the new world order. And if that’s the case, we wanted to take a look at that.”

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