In 264 days, the 151st Open Championship will be completed. We are still a ways from the Royal Liverpool opening tee shot, which was last seen in 2014. This venue is now the world No. 1 Rory McIlroy won his Claret Jug.
We won’t have long to wait to hear what the R&A has in store for LIV golf members.
Martin Slumbers, R&A’s chief executive, stated that they did not plan to ban LIV-players in July. It’s not on our agenda .”
Three months later, his message is the same.
“We will make public our plans for LIV golfers in January/February. For a guide, refer to my July statement. We are not banning anyone. We won’t betray 150-years of history and make the Open closed,” Slumbers said to Golf Digest at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship hosted this week by the R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Federation.
“We will ensure there are suitable pathways and ways to qualify. Cam Smith will be the next Open’s first-day tee off at 9:40 am. The Open must be able to put aside disagreements and keep true to its principle of having the best players around the world compete.
Smith is currently the Champion Golfer of Year and is now a member the Greg Norman-led circuit, which is supported by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund.
Norman was expelled from the Champions Challenge dinner and Champions dinner at St. Andrews in April.
Slumbers stated that “with everything that was happening, it was evident to me that there was an explanation why he wanted be there this year.” It would have been all about noise if he was there. The Open must be different from all of that. I didn’t want noise between rival tours or two huge personalities. It would have been distracting from the events of the week.
“I wanted the 150th Open special and perfect. I did not want any other issues to be raised around it. They could have been detrimental to it in the eyes and minds of the public. Greg was extremely polite and I was respectful of his views. I asked Greg to consider my point of view. I agreed to do so in private. It was not made public. It was not something I said or commented on.
“That week was supposed be about the 150th anniversary of our game’s founding. It was undoubtedly the most beautiful course in the entire world. That was the only thing I would ever lose sight of.”
Slumbers is well aware of the implications of splitting up the talent pool in our fractured game.
“It is not about them and me. I have no problem with the players. People play for a living. He said that Saudi Arabia is keen to invest in the game he loves and cares about. That’s a great thing. But I want to keep the meritocracy and pathways on which our game was built. Without it, sport isn’t really sport. Therefore, I want to ensure that we have the best players competing every week.
“If the game doesn’t have high value and respect, then I don’t have any chance of growing the game. We only see the best players together four times per year because of our current situation. We’ll be able to enjoy it four times per year.
To make you feel better about the distance we have from meaningful golf, let’s look ahead to 2023. The Masters starts in 158 days.