USGA CEO Mike Whan can envision a LIV Golf pathway to the U.S. Open, just not yet

May 8, 2024

LIV Golf players have been clamoring for new exemption criteria to gain access to the four major championships, and while none have been created for this year’s events, one executive said he could envision a future pathway for players.

United States Golf Association CEO Mike Whan said the governing body’s competition committee has held conversations about creating new criteria for LIV players and also explained why one hasn’t been implemented just yet during the USGA’s media day on Monday ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open next month.

When the USGA was reviewing its criteria for this year’s championship, June 13-16 at Pinehurst No. 2, at the time it looked like the game was heading toward consolidation as the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund continued their discussions following last year’s shocking framework agreement. Instead of making a rash decision, the championship committee decided to let 2024 play out, thus the criteria remain unchanged.

“If you asked me a year ago, ‘What’s it going to be like in three months?’ I would have confidently given you an answer. I would have been confidently wrong,” Whan told Golfweek. “If LIV stays as a separate entity and keeps the quality of players that it’s got, can I envision a pathway to the U.S. Open through LIV? I can, but I’d like to see what the final product is, and we’re just not exactly sure we know that yet.”

As of last week, 36 LIV players have entered U.S. Open qualifying while 11 have not. Eight players are already exempt into the third men’s major of the year: Bryson DeChambeau, Tyrrell Hatton, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith.

On Monday, the PGA of America announced its field for next week’s 2024 PGA Championship, which will feature 16 LIV players, six of whom received special invites: Dean Burmester, Talor Gooch, Lucas Herbert, Adrian Meronk, David Puig and Patrick Reed.

The USGA has given out one special invitation to three-time U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods for this year’s championship, and the organization isn’t expected to hand out any more for 2024. As a championship with qualifying, it’s easy to understand why the USGA isn’t inviting more players. The same goes for the R&A and the Open Championship.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said players shouldn’t hold their breath for new Masters qualification criteria earlier this year, but the green jackets did reward Joaquin Niemann with one of three special invitations due to his efforts to qualify via the Official World Golf Ranking and his performance in events outside of LIV.

It appears the PGA of America has done the same with some of its six invites. Herbert, Meronk and Reed are all still inside the top 100 of the OWGR. Burmester won twice on the DP World Tour at the end of 2023 and Puig has teed it up in a handful of Asian Tour events to earn points. Gooch, however, has only played LIV events and said last week he’s one of the 11 who won’t try and earn his way into the U.S. Open after he was boxed out last year.

LIV events have never earned OWGR points, and the league withdrew its application earlier this year. As past champion exemptions start to run out for some of the league’s best players, those who made the jump are growing increasingly desperate for ways to access the majors. While the majority of LIV’s 54-player field will try to play their way into the U.S. Open, the calls for special treatment from those who don’t will continue to fall on deaf ears.