US Open finally doing something right, including LIV defectors


Six years ago, the lack of trust between professional golfers and US Open overlords inspired a social media barrage that sent the governing body reeling into the ropes, bloodied and calling for a white towel to be thrown at the ring.

The USGA had been a punching bag for so long it should have been sponsored by Everlast. But when the Blazers running that organization threatened US Open final round leader Dustin Johnson with a possible mid-round penalty – for the slightest backward movement of his ball on the fifth green of ‘Oakmont, a move he swore he didn’t cause – his fellow pros attacked like never before.


“@USGA amateur hour,” tweeted a very caring and dignified Rory McIlroy, who later added, “If it was me, I wouldn’t pull another shot until this prank is rectified.

Jordan Spieth has called the pending judgment hanging over Johnson’s head as he tries to win his first major title a “joke”. Rickie Fowler called the idea that Johnson had moved the ball with his putter “laughable”. Tiger Woods took to Twitter to call the whole mess a “rules prank”.

After Johnson survived the uncertainty and prevailed with enough cushion to absorb the one-shot penalty the USGA finally and absurdly imposed on him, Jack Nicklaus praised him for overcoming “all that shit that they threw you away”.

Tournament officials deserved all the cruel and comedic things posted about them that day, especially the classic Crying Jordan meme that replaced the legend’s crying face with the USGA ‘G’.

Dustin Johnson, left, and Phil Mickelson at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.
Dustin Johnson, left, and Phil Mickelson at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.

Nothing has ever been easier in golf than a birdie tap-in and a cheap shot at the folks running the US Open. But with the game’s most punishing major set to kick off Thursday at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., it’s worth noting that an organization with a storied history of mistakes (see Shinnecock Greens, 2004; and Chambers Greens Bay, 2015) understood the composition of the 2022 peloton.

The USGA absolutely did the right thing by allowing Dustin Johnson and his fellow LIV Golf defectors to play ball.

Up front, everyone understands what Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and their friends have been up to. They quit the PGA Tour and took the money from the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour because the pile of guaranteed money was so large. They decided not to carry out the brutal 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other Saudi perpetrators of human rights atrocities.

The fans should be the judge and jury of what punishment, if any, should be meted out. If Mickelson’s longtime admirers want to ditch him for doing $200 million worth of deals with bad people trying to wash their global image, they should go ahead and ditch him. If Lefty and Johnson fans want to stick to golf and point out that the US government and US corporations have many lucrative trade deals with Saudi Arabia and China (President Biden could meet Prince Biden next month Saudi heir Mohammed bin Salman, the very leader who allegedly authorized Khashoggi’s murder), they should go ahead and enjoy the tee-to-green show.

But the USGA had no right to disqualify the 14 players from the first LIV Golf event, this week outside London, who had earned their place at the US Open fairly and squarely. Legally, which court, exactly, would have denied these players an immediate injunction to compete at Brookline? And if tournament organizers and league commissioners in different sports started banning athletes who had business ties to countries with worrying human rights records, you’d end up with a lot of locker rooms and arenas empty.

Graeme McDowell
Former US Open winner Graeme McDowell is among the LIV defectors currently allowed at US Open 2022.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has not suspended the LIV boys because the new tour is funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The company man suspended them because he is terrified that LIV Golf and his endless supply of seed money pose a potentially deadly threat to his business.

In a letter to his players, Monahan wrote that fans and tour partners “are surely tired of all this talk of money, money and more money.” But if the PGA Tour wants to meet the LIV challenge, defined by nine-figure bonuses, $4 million checks for tournament winners and $120,000 checks for last, it better find the money. , money and more money for star players – and sooner rather than later.

In the interest of maintaining the world order of sport, the USGA could have adopted the position and preference of the PGA Tour, announced that it was removing the traveling stars of Greg Norman from the US Open field, then fought LIV’s lawyers in court. Instead, the governing body of the US Open issued a statement which reads:

“We pride ourselves on being the most open championship in the world and players who have earned the right to participate in this year’s championship, both by exemption and qualification, will have the opportunity to do so. We simply asked this question – should a player who had earned his way to the US Open 2022, via our published court criteria, be removed from the court following his decision to play in another event? finally decided they shouldn’t.

No, the USGA doesn’t deserve a standing ovation for simply doing the right thing. Just an acknowledgment that he finally sank a big putt under the pressure of the final round.