Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and the LIV Golf Defectors Were Banned by the PGA Tour, so Why Are They Allowed to Play in the U.S. Open?

You might notice Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and the rest of the LIV Golf defectors strolling the grounds at The Country Club at Brookline this weekend during the 2022 U.S. Open. But wait. Didn’t the PGA Tour ban these guys? How come they’re able to compete in a major championship alongside the players who haven’t betrayed the PGA Tour?

Well, the answer is really quite simple. It’s actually one of the main reasons why some of these golfers have decided to ditch the PGA Tour for the lighter schedule and the endless buckets of Saudi cash.

LIV Golf competitors have been banned from the PGA Tour

The PGA Tour isn’t going to simply sit around and watch as its brightest stars leave one by one to join its new rival. Mickelson, Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and others have already made the decision to ditch the Tour for LIV Golf, and it can’t afford a mass exodus in the coming weeks.

So, the PGA Tour has decided to fight fire with fire. Ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational last weekend, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan released a searing letter that stated LIV Golf participants are “suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate” in PGA Tour events. That includes all PGA Tour tournaments, the FedEx Cup, and the Presidents Cup.

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons. But they can’t demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platforms as you,” Monahan wrote. “That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners.”

The LIV Golf members must’ve seen this coming, but most of them couldn’t care less. Although they can no longer play in PGA Tour events, they’re still allowed to compete in major championships, at least for the time being. How come?

Why are the LIV Golf defectors allowed to play in the U.S. Open?

Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson look on during LIV Golf event.
Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson look during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational | Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images

A large majority of the professional golf events you watch every year are owned and operated by the PGA Tour itself. But the majors are a different story.

The PGA Tour actually doesn’t host any of the four majors, so it doesn’t have the power to decide who can and cannot participate. The Masters Tournament is an invitational event hosted by Augusta National Golf Club. The PGA Championship is run by the PGA of America, which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t the same entity as the PGA Tour. As for the U.S. Open, that’s hosted by the United States Golf Association (USGA). And the Open Championship is run by the R&A.

As much as the PGA Tour wishes it could dictate the major fields right about now, it has just about as much power in that regard as you and I. 

And if you’re one of these four groups, why would you restrict many of the most popular players in the world from playing in your premier event? They could care less what tour those players decide to compete on throughout the regular season.

Despite the repercussions LIV Golf participants knew they’d face, they also knew they wouldn’t be shut out of the majors. That saving grace must’ve been the deciding factor for many of them.

This dynamic could change quickly if LIV Golf doesn’t get approved to offer Official World Golf Ranking points, though. In that case, LIV Golf players won’t be able to qualify for majors based on OWGR points alone, and they’d have to find other ways to crack the fields.

Just another fascinating storyline to follow in this war that’s only just begun.

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