In a nod to the LIV Golf League, the PGA Championship has become the last of golf’s four majors to open an avenue for members of the rival circuit to compete this season.
The PGA of America on Wednesday announced the addition of one category for three players from the new International Federation Ranking list for tours in Japan, Asia, South Africa and Australia.
The top three will be determined on April 24. The current leaders include Sihwan Kim, who plays for LIV Golf, and Shaun Norris, who played an entire LIV Golf season last year but is not part of the 48-man roster this year.
In addition, the PGA of America also said it “reserves the right to invite additional players not included in the categories … in pursuit of our annual goal to deliver the strongest field in golf.”
Among the exemption categories for this year’s event are former PGA Championship winners, which includes LIV Golf members Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Martin Kaymer, as well as winners of other majors over the past five years — a list that includes LIV’s Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed. In addition, winners of the Players Championship from the past three years, including LIV’s Cameron Smith, also are exempt.
Mito Pereira and Brendan Steele, who recently jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, also will be eligible to play in the PGA Championship after finishing in the top 15 in last year’s event.
The majority of the PGA Championship field comes from the PGA Tour, either through winning or the money list. Officials also rely on special invitations, a vague term that presumably relies on the world ranking. The reputation of the PGA Championship has been to have the strongest field of the four majors.
“Our decisions are always based on what’s in the best interest of the PGA of America and conducting the best championship possible,” PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said in a statement. “Sadly the current division in the professional game is not good for the sport or the future of the game. We hope there might be some resolution soon.”
The 156-player field will be announced May 10. The tournament at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, will take place May 18-21.
The R&A on Tuesday said that qualifying LIV Golf members will be allowed to compete in the 151st edition of The Open this summer at Royal Liverpool. The Masters and the U.S. Open had previously announced that LIV golfers would be eligible to play in their 2023 events.
As for those without automatic exemptions into the PGA Championship, players inside the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking list would gain entry. That list would include DP World Tour star Thomas Pieters, who is ranked No. 34 and jumped to LIV last week.
But even the world ranking might not work in LIV’s favor.
The league has filed an application with the Official World Golf Ranking board and still has not received notice when it might get approved. Even then, ranking points for LIV events would be significantly less than those for the PGA Tour because of the 48-man LIV fields, and only six LIV Golf players are currently in the top 50.
Of the 20 players from LIV Golf currently in the top 100, eight of them are at No. 75 and lower, and likely to keep dropping.
Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer of the PGA of America, said the organization would consider LIV Golf as it would other circuits.
“We look at other tours, money lists and rankings as we have done in the past and will do in the future,” he said. “It doesn’t stop us from seeing other good players.”
Asked if the PGA of America would consider LIV players, Haigh replied, “Absolutely.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.