All four men’s majors in 2023 will involve LIV Golf players and that’s exactly what the majority of people wanted to see. The exemption categories for The Masters, US PGA Championship, US Open and The Open have all been confirmed and it’s a green light in all four for LIV Golf players who are currently exempt. It means The Masters, for example, will feature the likes of former winners Phil Mickelson, Duston Johnson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen. Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau will also be teeing it up at Augusta National in the first week in April on the strength of being US Open champions within the last five years. And, mainly through being The Open champion though not solely, Cameron Smith will be in the LIV Golf group as well heading down Magnolia Lane.
The majority of the aforementioned players will also be in action in the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May, the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club the following month then The Open at Royal Birkdale in July. In all four cases, Augusta National, PGA of America, USGA and The R&A have done the right thing, certainly as far as this year is concerned.
The game is still in turmoil following the launch of LIV Golf last year and the defection of a number of the sport’s leading players to Greg Norman’s Saudi-funded breakaway circuit. Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, was right when he talked about how the “current division in the professional game is not good for the sport or the future of the game”. It is what it is right now, though, and there’s no doubt that the vast majority of golf fans are desperate to see players from the traditional tours going head-to-head with LIV Golf players on the game’s biggest stages. And you only need to look at the interest created in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in January as Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed battled it out for that title to get a taste of what might lie ahead in 2023.
How many Scots are going to be involved in major action this year remains to be seen, with the overall picture not exactly being something to shout about right now. Five players – Paul Lawrie, Ewen Ferguson, Bob MacIntyre, Richie Ramsay and Connor Syme – have already secured spots in the 151st Open as it returns to Hoylake for the first time since Rory McIlroy’s win in 2014. But, with time running out, only 1988 winner Sandy Lyle is currently in the field for The Masters while there are no Scots among the exemptions for either the US PGA Championship or US Open.
There will be qualifying opportunities for the US Open, of course, while others will be hoping to be involved in the Claret Jug joust on Merseyside. The likes of Calum Scott and Connor Graham, for example, will have their eyes on a new exemption for amateurs that has been introduced by the R&A this year.
The player who accumulates the most points awarded by the World Amateur Golf Ranking in the St Andrews Links Trophy, The Amateur Championship and European Amateur Championship will secure a spot in The Open. That’s a move that should be applauded, as should the step taken by the PGA of America to hand places in the US PGA Championship to the top three players on the Official World Golf Ranking’s new International Federation Ranking List. That means up-and-coming players on the Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour have a chance of playing in a major in the US and that’s definitely good for the game.
Yes, of course, the vast majority of people are only really interested in watching the likes of McIlroy, Johnson, DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and, of course, Tiger Woods. But it’s vital for the future of the game that a new generation of superstars are given the opportunity to shine and, with the LIV Goff factor also added into the mix, the 2023 men’s majors are certainly set to be lip-licking affairs.