'Always going to be welcomed': PGA of Australia gives Aussie LIV golfers green light for future tournaments – Australian Golf Digest

Australian Golf Digest
Both the PGA and Open are co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour [formerly named European Tour] which initially banned and fined its members for playing in LIV events earlier this year – until a UK sports arbitration tribunal put a hold on the bans. The move allowed European Tour stalwarts including Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood to continue playing DP World Tour events like the Scottish Open and BMW PGA at Wentworth. A hearing in February 2023 from Sports Resolutions UK is set to decide whether those bans will be reinstated or whether they are illegal. In the US, the PGA Tour has banned players who have gone to LIV Golf, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
The PGA Tour of Australasia is in a strategic alliance with the DP World Tour, a partnership with benefits including the co-sanctioning of the Australian PGA and Open.

But current guidelines on the Australasian tour mean its members can’t be stopped from playing in an event, regardless of other tours a golfer may play on.
“Both the [major] tours have made their decisions on sanctions or penalties based, but our current regulations and policies for our members are about playing in a conflicting event,” Kirkman told Australian Golf Digest in a wide-ranging interview Friday. “Our position is they were always going to be welcomed home. If they’re a full member of the PGA Tour of Australasia, and they enter in an event, our current regulations deem that we can’t stop them from playing. Our Australian players who are playing LIV golf, we respect their decision.”
World No.3 Smith has been LIV’s biggest signing to date given he won the Open Championship at St Andrews in July, his third PGA Tour win of 2022 after victories at the Tournament of Champions and Players Championship. Fellow Australian Leishman, a six-time PGA Tour winner, also left the PGA Tour for LIV while Matt Jones and Wade Ormsby had joined LIV from its inaugural event in June.
“I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed to [no longer] see them flying the Australian flag on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and other global tours and even in the Presidents Cup, but they are their own brands and they’re still very much engaged in Australian golf and they’re coming home to support us this summer, so I wasn’t going to disrespect that decision,” Kirkman said.
Despite some criticism on social media from Australian pros, Kirkman also said the PGA Tour of Australasia had made the right decision in partnering with the DP World Tour through 2026 – even though there was a meeting earlier this year with LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman. LIV Golf has invested $US300 million into the Asian Tour, which counts 30 Australian pros as members, through the creation of the International Series – 10 events with elevated purses. Next year, the International Series will also offer its moneylist winner a spot in the following LIV Golf season.
“We did initially [have dialogue with LIV Golf] but we haven’t had any in the last six to 12 months. Greg [Norman] was very open with his plan … and he was respectful in that discussion,” Kirkman said. “My job with the PGA of Australia and our tour is to create player pathways which is why we’ve got our strategic alliance with DP World Tour [which also has a direct pathway] to the PGA Tour; our board is confident we’ve made a decision in the best interest of our membership.”
While an alliance with LIV Golf would have brought large sums of money into the Australasian tour, Kirkman reiterated the benefits of partnering with the DP World Tour and PGA Tour were plentiful. He pointed to the fact the top three [not already exempt] players on the Australasian Order Of Merit receive DP World Tour cards for the following season, while the next three on the OOM receive an exemption to the final stage of DP World Tour Q-School. The top five also receive an exemption to the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School in the US. Other benefits of the alliance include a doubling of the purse of the Australian PGA Champion from $A1 million to $2 million this year; the winner of the Australian PGA and Open receiving a DP World Tour card for the remainder of the 2023 season and the 2024 season; the winner of the Order of Merit getting a start in the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool; and Australia hosting a site for the first stage of DP World Tour qualifying earlier this year.
Australian fans, officials and top players have called for the PGA Tour to co-sanction an event Down Under, like the Australian Open, which is one of the oldest championships in world golf. Australia has also produced superstars like Smith, as well as recent former world No.1s and major winners like Adam Scott and Jason Day. Instead, Australia has hosted three Presidents Cups (1998, 2011 and 2019), several World Cup of Golf editions and Korn Ferry Tour (formerly named Nationwide Tour) events. Many don’t consider this enough of a presence in Australia.
“The PGA of Australia has been a wonderful partner of the PGA Tour and has played an instrumental role in the development and growth of the game at the highest level over the years,” Christian Hardy, the PGA Tour’s international senior vice president, said. “[PGA of Australia’s] strategic alliance with the DP World Tour continues the firm commitment to the pathways that exist for Australian golfers to excel on the world’s top professional golf tours. Australia remains a priority and we will continue to support the growth of golf in the region.”
Kirkman is expecting record crowds between 10,000-12,000 each day, both at the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland at the end of November and the Australian Open at Victoria GC and Kingston heath from December 1-4. In a world first, the men’s and women’s Opens will be contested at the same time on the same courses.
“It’s going to be an incredible summer of golf with obviously Cam Smith bringing the [Open Championship trophy] the claret jug down with him and playing the PGA and Open,” Kirkman said. “There’s also Minjee Lee who is the reigning US Women’s Open champion and a lot of other top players like [2013 Masters winner] Adam Scott, who always supports our tour, and Lucas Herbert, Cam Davis, Hannah Green, Min Woo Lee and others. It’s going to be special.”

© 2022 Australian Golf Digest. All rights reserved.

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