R&A CEO Martin Slumbers took a carefully worded dig at the LIV Golf Series, addressing it both as an undisputable impasse for the game of golf to evolve while taking zero issues with players defecting to Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed league for the upgraded prize money. Which is, truly, at the core of the LIV’s successful jumpstart.
Comments made by Slumbers revealed that despite LIV defectors’ participation in the 150th Open this week at St. Andrews, an uneven view toward these players for choosing the guaranteed money offered by LIV remains.
Slumbers stated the following during a Wednesday presser from St. Andrews:
“I have absolutely no problem with that at all. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. I believe the model we have seen at Centurion and at Pumpkin Ridge is not in the best long-term interest of the sport as a whole and is entirely driven by money. We believe it undermines the merit-based nature and the spirit of open competition that makes golf so special.”
Slumbers prefaced his comments by declaring that future qualifications for the Open may be altered — which beyond its surface indicates that the Open will aim to filter out LIV participants and try to deter growth in the seemingly booming LIV series, which has already reeled in elite names such as Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
“We will hold totally true to The Open being open to anybody,’’ Slumbers said. “But we may well look at how you get into that, whether it’s an exemption or a need to qualify through our qualifying process.’’
The LIV series’ roughly $25 million pot has inspired leagues such as the PGA Tour to up their prize money, which previously paled in comparison to the Saudi-funded series.
“Professional golfers are entitled to choose where they want to play and to accept the prize money that’s offered to them,” Slumbers added.
Discourse between Greg Norman, a two-time Open champ, and the R&A — a governing body within professional golf that helms the British Open — reached a new level when Norman was disinvited from the pre-tournament festivities, as reported by OutKick’s Mark Harris.
One staple of the game that spoke up and supported the R&A’s move to disallow Norman was 15-time major winner Tiger Woods.
“I believe it’s the right thing,” Woods commented during a press conference from St. Andrews on Tuesday.
The throughline with Woods and Slumbers’ commentary has been to reject LIV as a preservation of a loosely-defined ethos of professional golf.
“The R&A obviously have their opinions and their rulings and their decision,” Woods added, “Greg has done some things that I don’t think is in the best interest of our game, and we’re coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport.’’