R&A chief condemns LIV Golf, says new league ‘entirely driven by money’

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, speaks to the media on Wednesday in St. Andrews.

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, opened his annual pre-Open press conference on Wednesday with calculated remarks about professional golf’s complicated ecosystem in the wake of LIV Golf’s recent disruption to the sport.

Slumbers said the Saudi-funded, Greg Norman-led league is not in the best long-term interest of golf and is “entirely driven by money.” He also asserted that while the R&A won’t ban LIV players from future Opens, it will review how players qualify for golf’s oldest major championship.

“I firmly believe that the existing golf ecosystem has successfully provided stable pathways for golfers to enter the sport and develop and realize their full potential,” said Slumbers, who opened his press conference with a quick welcome before reading a statement on LIV Golf that lasted roughly four minutes. “Professional golfers are entitled to choose where they want to play and to accept the prize money that’s offered to them. I have absolutely no issue with that at all. But there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

While the PGA Tour and USGA have commented on LIV Golf since player commitments were made public, the R&A has been tight-lipped, perhaps keeping its cards close to its chest until it needed to address the issue, which was Wednesday.

LIV Golf has run two events so far, at Centurion Club outside of London in June, and Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon in early July. So far its limited schedule, private luxury jets, 54-hole no-cut events and lucrative prize payouts and contracts have lured the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia.

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“I believe the model we’ve seen at Centurion and Pumpkin Ridge is not in the best long-term interests of the sport as a whole and is entirely driven by money,” Slumbers said. “We believe it undermines the merit-based culture and the spirit of open competition that makes golf so special.”

Slumbers added the “continued commentary” that LIV Golf’s goal is to grow the game is not credible, in his opinion.

“If anything, it’s harming the perception of our sport which we are working so hard to improve,” he said.

Slumbers said that while the R&A does not plan to ban any LIV players from competing in future Open Championships, he did say it will review exemptions and qualifications criteria for future Opens.

LIV Golf applied to be included in the Official World Golf Ranking system last week, but it’s unclear the timeline of how soon OWGR points can become available for the new league, if any. Slumbers declined to further elaborate on the OWGR, or when a decision could be made.

Slumbers is also one of eight members of the OWGR board, as are several other prominent figures in the game such as Mike Whan (USGA), Jay Monahan (PGA Tour), Seth Waugh (PGA of America) and Keith Pelley (DP World Tour). Peter Dawson, the former chief executive of the R&A, is the OWGR chairman.

“We absolutely reserve the right to make changes as our Open Championships Committee deems appropriate,” Slumbers said. “Players have to earn their place in The Open, and that is fundamental to its ethos and its unique global appeal.”

LIV Golf receiving OWGR accreditation is crucial to its future, as it would allow its players to be eligible to earn points and qualify for major championships.

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.