The R&A has sensationally stripped the Asian Tour of its Order of Merit winner’s exemption into the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
In a move certain to ignite already simmering tensions between Greg Norman and other major tour powerbrokers, Australian Golf Digest sources have confirmed R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers informed Asian Tour executives of their decision via email on Friday. The Asian Tour has since shared the bombshell news to its players committee.
While the reasoning behind the R&A’s ruling is not yet clear, sources suggest it could be a reaction to Norman – a two-time Open champion – and his Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments venture, which recently announced a 10-year, $US200 million cash injection to create an annual 10-event series on the Asian Tour.
Norman’s burgeoning reputation as a disruptor of the world game has divided many in the sport. The R&A, which governs amateur golf and the oldest Major championship in the game, has remained tight-lipped on its position in relation to the Saudi Arabian government’s investment in golf through its Public Investment Fund.
Its decision to strip the Asian Tour’s moneylist winner of a career-defining opportunity comes just days after it added the New Zealand Open to its list of Open Qualifying sites, giving the Asia-Pacific region a much-needed shot in the arm after a trying two years navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
That joy could now be short-lived for Australia’s European Tour star Wade Ormsby, who stands to be one of the biggest losers out of this latest development as the Asian Tour’s current OOM leader.
The South Australian had his sights firmly set on punching a ticket to the 150th Open at St Andrews after racking up $U250,553.65 in five events to lead Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai by almost $10,000 with two tournaments to come. He remains in the box seat to join previous OOM winners like Scott Hend and Shubhankar Sharma should he choose to play the final two events in Singapore in January.
“[An Order of Merit title] is something that would be great to have on the resume along with the long exemptions that go with it and the opportunities that could open for you,” he told the PGA of Australia recently.
“The chance to win an Order of Merit is something that doesn’t come along too often in people’s careers so that’s definitely my main motivation at this point.”
While the Asian Tour has lost its one and only independent Open exemption category, three tournaments it co-sanctions still retain their qualifying rights – SMBC Singapore Open (co-sanctioned with Japan Tour), Kolon Korea Open (Korean Golf Association) and the recently added New Zealand Open (PGA Tour of Australasia).
In a statement to Australian Golf Digest, the R&A said: “We review and update our exemptions from time to time and any changes are considered carefully by our championships committee.”