ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The British Open’s organizer pointedly warned on Wednesday that it may change its entry rules for future tournaments — a shift that could jeopardize the Claret Jug prospects of players who defected to the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf series.
Although the R&A has not made a final decision about how players will be able to join the 156-man field in 2023 and beyond, its chief executive, Martin Slumbers, made plain that one of golf’s most hallowed tournaments could soon be closed off to some of the world’s top players.
“We will review our exemptions and qualifications criteria for the Open,” Slumbers said at a news conference at St. Andrews on the eve of the Open’s start on the Old Course, adding, “we absolutely reserve the right to make changes” from past years.
“Players have to earn their place in the Open, and that is fundamental to its ethos and its unique global appeal,” said Slumbers, who did little to disguise his disdain for the LIV series.
Slumbers denied that the R&A was coordinating with the organizers of golf’s other major tournaments to potentially exclude players like Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, both of whom have aligned with LIV in recent months. But the chief executive of the United States Golf Association, which controls the U.S. Open, said in June that the group would “re-evaluate” the criteria it uses to set the tournament field.
The P.G.A. of America, which is in charge of the PGA Championship, has also signaled its disdain for the LIV series, which is offering millions of dollars in guaranteed money to players to join 54-hole, no-cut tournaments with shotgun starts. Augusta National Golf Club, which organizes the Masters Tournament, has so far remained silent about its intentions.
Like other tournaments, the R&A publishes a lengthy roster of pathways for players to qualify for the Open, which will be held next year at Royal Liverpool. This year, for example, players listed in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking on a certain date were invited, along with winners of select tournaments.
The group that oversees the Official World Golf Ranking system said Tuesday that LIV, which draws much of its funding from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, had asked this month for “inclusion” and that it was beginning to review the application.
Open organizers have tried mightily this week to direct attention toward the 150th tournament. But the turmoil surrounding LIV has repeatedly intruded. Over the weekend, the R&A acknowledged that it had not invited Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive who won the Open twice, to stay away from the festivities at St. Andrews.
And on Tuesday, Tiger Woods used a news conference to denounce LIV.
“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” Woods asked. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes.”
The players who moved from the PGA Tour to LIV, he said, had “turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”