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R&A drops Open Championship exemption for Asian Tour's top money winner

December 18, 2021

Mark Runnacles

The R&A has dropped an annual exemption into the Open Championship given to the winner of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, a spokesperson confirmed to Golf Digest.

Wade Ormsby, a member of the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour), currently sits at No. 1 on the Asian Tour’s money list with two events to play in the counting season. The 41-year-old Australian was hoping this would lock up a spot in the field into the 150th Open at St. Andrews in July, but now will have to gain entry another way.

The timing of the R&A decision draws into question whether it was connected at all to the Asian Tour’s recent alignment with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investment, headed by Greg Norman, and the potential for that group to create a rival series of events to compete against the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. When asked why the R&A decided to drop the exemption, which had been in place since at least 2002, the spokesperson offered only the following comment:

“We review and update our exemptions from time to time and any changes are considered carefully by our championships committee.”

The Asian Tour is hosting the controversial Saudi International in February, in which several top-ranked players on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, are listed being the field. However, the PGA Tour has not yet granted releases to these players to compete in the event.

The R&A still is offering exemptions into the 150th Open for top finishes in three tournaments listed on the Asian Tour schedule: the SMBC Singapore Open (co-sanctioned with Japan Tour), the Kolon Korea Open (Korean Golf Association) and New Zealand Open (PGA Tour of Australasia), which was just added to the list of qualifying tournaments this week.