Who Will Be The First LIV Golfers Dropped from Majors? Who Won’t?

Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, The Masters,Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, The Masters,Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

Augusta National sent a whisper through its loblolly pines this week by announcing that LIV golfers who qualified for their tournament, the Masters, will still be able to play.

It is not a surprise, really, as they followed the blueprint that the PGA of America and the USGA set forth for the PGA Championship and U.S. Open last year.  In summary, they said, in a printed announcement available on the Masters’ website, that anyone who qualified by their standards would be invited to the event. They didn’t add “although we wish we didn’t have to invite them,” but they probably felt that way.

So, the “blame” for having LIV golfers was “tradition,” and we all know how the club feels about that. Augusta National allows past champions and major winners for the most recent five years to play, and that includes some LIV-ers.

But over time, only seven LIV golfers will return to the rolling Georgia fairways, framed by dogwoods and azaleas.

In less than five years, LIV golfers will have very little effect on major championship golf unless they somehow win a U.S. Open, a British Open, or the PGA.  And that’s what they call a big ask.

Here are some LIV-ers you can expect to see at the Masters and other majors.

Four LIV golfers still have five-year exemptions for winning a major championship: Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, and Cameron Smith. DeChambeau won the U.S. Open in 2020 and is exempt for all majors through 2025.  He’s probably hoping his LIV contract is renewed after that time.

Koepka has through 2024 to play majors because he won the U.S. Open in 2019. Patrick Reed, Masters winner in 2018, is still exempt for majors through 2023.

Smith received his five-year guarantee for majors by winning the British Open last summer.  He has a free pass at history through 2027.

Past champions at the Masters have “lifetime” exemptions, which really means they can play until the president of the club asks them not to. That includes Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, and Charl Schwartzel.

However, other than Johnson, it’s unlikely they will be on the leaderboard and less likely that they will get great TV times, although Mickelson might be an exception to that because he has many fans who will tune in to see him play.

The British Open doesn’t like to give an exemption to past champions over the age of 60.  The PGA Championship allows past champions to play “for life;” however, most don’t play past their mid-60s, if that long.

That means Cameron Smith, Henrik Stenson, and Louis Oosthuizen will still play the British Open for many years.  It means that Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, and Brooks Koepka could play the PGA Championship as long as they like, again, usually, in practice, not being much past age 60.

After five years, nobody plays the U.S. Open without qualifying, unless they are granted an exemption from the USGA as Hale Irwin was in 1990.  And he won.

For the British Open as well as the U.S. Open, there’s always qualifying, but pretty soon, LIV-ers will have so much money that they won’t want to go through that procedure.  After you are 35 or 40, do you want to qualify?  Only if desperate or if you love the tournament.

But there are some LIV-ers who should enjoy the Masters this year because unless they win, it’s their last. And that includes Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Those players were either in the top 50 in world ranking points or the top 30 at last year’s Tour Championship and then defected.  Other than that, they have no status.

Currently, it’s unknown if LIV will start getting world ranking points.  That means those LIV-ers currently in the top 50 are likely to fall out of that category by mid-2023 because they won’t be in tournaments, except majors, that award them.

Next. The Masters Punts. dark

Players who are both in the top 50 and LIV are few and far between as the list shows.  And pretty soon Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas; never mind golfers who are in the top 30, will be putting spike marks on the backs of all LIV-ers to stay higher in the rankings.

So, don’t worry about LIV Golf. Both LIV and Greg Norman will have very little effect on major championship golf and even less on the rest of professional golf in five years.  We have already nearly forgotten their players.  By 2028, they will be practically invisible.