LIV golfers can still play in majors but the number who are eligible may surprise you
Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia play a practice round together in the LIV Golf event in Oregon last year. They played in a combined seven majors in 2022, but are eligible for considerably less this year.
Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf
To listen to the coverage of how the four men’s majors are allowing LIV golfers to compete in the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Open Championship, you might be under the impression the high majority of LIV players will be teeing it up. Well, not so fast. While players won’t be prohibited from competing this year at Augusta National, Oak Hill C.C., Los Angeles C.C. and Royal Liverpool, qualifying for the majors is another issue.
Thanks to a nifty little chart posted on Twitter by @Robopz, you can see that a fair number of LIV golfers have already locked up spots in the four events. However, that number, at least as of now, is considerably lower than a year ago.
Last year those playing on the LIV circuit teed it up in a combined 116 major starts. Currently LIV players have locked up only 46 spots for 2023. According to the chart, 15 additional appearances are likely based on LIV golfers projected spots in the Official World Golf Ranking when those exemptions are triggered later in the year. That would bring the total to 61, a little more than half the number of major appearances last year by the current LIV group.
Among the biggest casualties are Paul Casey and Marc Leishman. Each has a solid record in majors and both participated in all four last year but at the moment are not eligible for any in 2023. Lee Westwood, arguably the best player without a major title, teed it up in three of the four in 2022 but is looking at a shutout this year.
The reason for the decline is straightforward. The most likely path to getting exempt into majors is by your position on the OWGR, winning PGA Tour events (which gets you into the Masters, PGA and potentially the U.S. Open) or high finishes in majors. As LIV events continue to receive no OWGR points and those playing LIV Golf are banned from PGA Tour events, the opportunities to get into majors is only going to continue to shrink.
The Masters and Open Championship require being in the top 50 on the OWGR. The U.S. Open the top 60. The PGA provides the likely easiest path as their “special exemptions” are likely to include the top 100. It’s why players such as Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen are currently only good for two majors in 2023 while Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson are only on tap for one.
Among the LIV golfers who don’t have to sweat things out are those who have recently won majors. Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Cam Smith all ride their wins into exemptions into all four events. Other than the privileged five, the only player who currently is exempt into three of the four majors is Joaquin Niemann, who is likely to get into the fourth—the PGA Championship—if he stays within the top 100 on the world ranking, a likely occurrence given he is currently 61st.
Suffice it to say, the organizations that run the four men’s majors have seemed to maintain the integrity of their qualifying processes and secure, for the most part, the best fields possible. LIV players can continue to tee it up in majors—or attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open and Open Championship if not eligible—but otherwise it will only get harder to qualify barring some shakeup in the world ranking criteria.