This week’s Open Championship is the definition of historic. It’s the 150th playing of The Open and it’s being held at the home of golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews.
No matter the winning score or whoever hoists the Claret Jug come Sunday, the 2022 edition of The Open will be one to remember.
However, even with how perfectly aligned everything is for this to be an Open for the ages, one topic is still overshadowing the entire golf world: the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.
In an attempt to get out from under LIV Golf’s shadow as best it can the R&A – the governing body that runs The Open – decided to disinvite LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman from the pre-tournament festivities.
Past champions gathered for a Champions Dinner and played in a four-hole Celebration of Champions event earlier in the week.
Norman is a two-time Open champion, so the R&A essentially banning him from the grounds of St. Andrews is newsworthy.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 12, 2022
It is true that Norman did not show up to the last Open held at St. Andrews back in 2015. That has nothing to do with this year’s event or this story created by the R&A itself with its decision to disinvite the Aussie to this year’s festivities.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both stated that they agree with the R&A’s decision to disinvite Norman.
“I believe it’s the right thing,” Woods said of Norman being disinvited from the Open.
“The R&A obviously have their opinions and their rulings and their decision, 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.’’
It’s easy to see why the R&A elected to disinvite the man shaking up the golf world behind Saudi money, I would argue his ban from St. Andrews has done more harm than good.
Would anyone – outside of the media paid to carry water for the PGA Tour and the traditional golf world – actually have cared if Norman showed up for a past champions dinner and played four holes of exhibition golf?
No, they wouldn’t have, but in today’s world of striving to have the perfect, uncontroversial optics the R&A had no other option but to keep Norman as far away from St. Andrews as possible.
Keeping Norman away from St. Andrews was the easy move compared to banning LIV golfers from competing in The Open. The R&A is allowing LIV golfers to tee it up this week following the precedent set by the PGA of America and USGA earlier in the year.
Disinviting Norman is an attempt to erase history, which is an interesting move from golf’s oldest championship and the most historic golf course on the planet.
Norman won not one, but two Claret Jugs in his career because he was the best golfer in the field over the span of those eight days. Norman’s Open wins in 1986 and 1993 have nothing to do with his business ventures today.
In reality, all the R&A did was create more chaos and separation between an already very split collection of golf fans. The majority of golf fans didn’t even know The Open held a Championship Dinner or that past champions were playing a few holes earlier in the week.
It would have been tough for fans to be upset if Norman showed up to pre-tournament events most didn’t even know took place.
The 150th playing of The Open is going to be a welcomed, and hopefully thrilling break from the drama-filled golf world.
Norman and LIV Golf are responsible for creating the drama, there’s no questioning that. The R&A, however, thought that it was separating itself from the drama by keeping Norman away from The Open, but all it ended up doing was adding its own chapter to a messy story.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter: @itismarkharris