British Open champion Cameron Smith will be allowed to defend his title in July after tournament organisers R&A confirmed that qualifying LIV Golf members are still eligible to compete.
Smith became the first Australian in almost 30 years to win the British Open last July, but switched from the PGA Tour to the controversial LIV Golf series a month later. Other notable LIV golfers who automatically qualify for the tournament include former champions Phil Mickelson of the US, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.
The 151st edition of the Open will be held at Royal Liverpool from July 20-23.
“We have created an exciting schedule of events which takes in many regions around the world and provides the chance for golfers to earn a place in the Open at Royal Liverpool,” Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of champions at the R&A, said on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT).
Cameron Smith with the claret jug trophy.Credit:AP
“We are grateful to our colleagues at the professional tours for their support and look forward to seeing who emerges from each event to book a sought-after place in the championship this year.”
Also available to participate are Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau – who finished in the top 10 at St Andrews last year – as well as former major winners Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed, among others.
The move backs up previous comments from R&A chief Martin Slumbers. He said banning LIV players was “not on our agenda”. He doubled down on that message in October.
“We’ll go public in January/February with what we are going to do with regard to LIV golfers,” Slumbers told Golf Digest. “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.”
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