Cameron Smith and other LIV golfers will be assured a place at The Open in 2023 after the tournament organisers confirmed the breakaway players will be eligible to play if they qualify. Smith made history in 2022 after becoming the first Australian to win The Open in almost 30 years.
After winning his first major, Smith made the shock decision to make the switch to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf breakaway group. The Australian left for a reported $140 million signing fee.
While LIV golfers were free to play in The Open last year - fresh from the drama surrounding the breakaway - many were banned from playing on the PGA Tour. However, Smith's St Andrews victory gave the 29-year-old exemption to the Masters, US PGA, US Open and British Open until at least 2028.
And Royal Liverpool has confirmed LIV Golfers will be able to play the tournament if they are eligible through their ranking. Many might not make the entry list because their rankings are expected to plummet without playing PGA Tour events.
But a number of major winners are expected to join Smith in a strong field. Previous winners of The Open include Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Louis Oosthuizen.
Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau will be eligible due to wins in other majors. Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed have also won a major since 2018.
While the news will come as a nice sweetener for some, it won't be a surprise. Royal Liverpool chief Martin Slumbers said last year that the major wasn't keen on breaking tradition.
“We’ll go public in January/February with what we are going to do with regard to LIV golfers,” he said at the time. “But if you want a guide, go back to what I said in July. We’re not banning anyone. We are not going to betray 150 years of history and have the Open not be open. The name says it all.
"And that’s important. What we will do is ensure that there are appropriate pathways and ways to qualify. I’m looking forward to seeing Cam Smith tee-up around 9.40 am on the first day of the Open next year. The Open needs to set itself aside from what’s going in terms of disagreements and make sure we stay true to our principle, which is to have the best players in the world competing.”
LIV Golf announcement ahead of 2023 season
Before Royal Liverpool's announcement, LIV Golf announced its 12 rosters of four-players teams for the upstart league's second season, making official the reported signings of Thomas Pieters, Danny Lee, Dean Burmester and Brendan Steele. LIV Golf's second season will kick-start this weekend at Mayakoba Resort's El Camaleon Golf Course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, with 48 golfers included for its expanded second.
Belgian Pieters, World No.35 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of this week, joined Bubba Watson's team, RangeGoats. Pieters, who played primarily on the DP World Tour, recently took to Twitter for a parting shot at the PGA Tour after not qualifying for last week's Genesis Invitational.
— Thomas Pieters (@Thomas_Pieters) February 15, 2023
Lee, from New Zealand, will be on Iron Heads, captained by Kevin Na. Burmester filled out the all-South African team, Stinger, led by Louis Oosthuizen.
Steele joined HyFlyers, captained by six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, whose commitment to LIV last season served as a catalyst for other top names to follow. One team will feature three co-captains. Majesticks has Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood of England and Stenson working together, with the roster rounded out by Englishman Sam Horsfield.
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