Henrik Stenson believes ‘something was going on’ when Talor Gooch wasn’t eligible to play in the 2023 US Open at Los Angeles Country Club…
Henrik Stenson has increased the clamour for more LIV Golfers to be eligible for the majors.
The 2016 Open champion cited the case study of Talor Gooch and the 2023 US Open to show how avenues are limited for players in the LIV Golf league to compete in golf’s biggest events.
Gooch thought he’d qualified to play at LACC having made the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship field in 2022 but, after moving to LIV Golf in June of that year, he was suspended and couldn’t play in the season finale.
The US Open required players to have qualified and be eligible and Gooch didn’t meet the latter point of two. Notably, the 2022 US Open required you to just qualify for the previous year’s Tour Championship.
“For me, last year to have Talor Gooch win three times and not be in the US Open at that time when they made some funky change to the criteria from the previous year,” Stenson said to NCG.
“It was something going on there and he wasn’t qualified. That’s not right and there’s no question that he should’ve been in the US Open and if you can’t see that, then you can’t be objective about the golf itself.”
‘That US Open’ came just two months after Gooch secured two quickfire wins in Adelaide and Singapore in the LIV Golf league, making his absence all the more significant.
He played in the Masters and The Open in 2023 under the Tour Championship criteria, and he played in the PGA Championship via an invite from the PGA of America.
2024 has a worse outlook for Gooch with no current prospect of a major exemption. Almost every LIV player’s biggest issue rests with world ranking points which are crucial in earning major berths.
Despite being crowned LIV’s individual champion at the end of the 2023 season, Gooch is not in the top 300 in the world rankings anymore. While playing on a tour with no ranking points to speak of, Stenson’s plans aren’t much busier with just The Open in his major diary.
The LIV Golf majors debate: Is there an answer?
Watson called for the majors to allocate 10 spots for LIV players, while also admitting that the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour should maintain priority.
Five players from the top 10 of the Saudi-backed league’s 2023 standings already have spots in at least one major this year and Stenson can play at The Open Championship until he’s 60, having hoisted the Claret Jug at Royal Troon eight years ago.
Stenson believes a pathway should be forged for top performers like Gooch to compete, telling NCG what he would do if he were a major organisation:
“We’ve all seen the drama of everything that’s been going on and it’s gone down a little bit.
“But I think the majors are in a unique position and if you ask me, if I were a major organiser, my only concern would be to have the best possible field or to make sure you have the best players in the world there, because that’s the best for the championships themselves and for their product.
“It’s also, given the current climate, one of the few occasions we will see players from the different tours competing together, which I think the fans are excited about and want to see.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the majors to have criteria where a couple of LIV players would qualify – how many and how that would be, so you would have the top four or top six not otherwise exempt from the LIV Tour at the majors would be fair.
“Roughly around five players from LIV that’s not already exempt could get a start at the majors, or the major that’s next on the schedule, then you could have a pathway in for some of the LIV players.”
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