Australian star Cameron Smith will be allowed to defend his British Open title in July after tournament organisers R&A confirmed that LIV Golf members were still eligible to play in the world’s oldest major championship.
Smith, who became the first Australian in almost 30 years to win the British Open last July, switched to Greg Norman’s LIV Golf on a deal worth a reported $140m following his victory at St Andrews.
LIV golfers were allowed to play in last year’s British Open as the golf world battled with the emergence of LIV, but are banned from playing on the PGA Tour.
They have been given the green light to play in the Masters at Augusta, and now at Royal Liverpool for this year’s Open from July 20-23.
“We have created an exciting schedule of events which takes in many regions around the world and provides the chance for golfers to earn a place in the Open at Royal Liverpool,” R&A executive director of championships Johnnie Cole-Hamilton said.
“We are grateful to our colleagues at the professional tours for their support and look forward to seeing who emerges from each event to book a sought-after place in the championship this year.”
Smith, who dropped to world No.5 this week, a slide likely to continue as LIV plays without world ranking points, is one of four former Open champs, including Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Louis Oosthuizen who also play with LIV that will get to feature at Royal Liverpool.
Former World No.1, Jason Day conceded it would always be “awkward” to run in to some LIV player at the majors, but not Smith.
“ I think for some of the guys that voiced their opinions about LIV, it will probably be a little bit more awkward in regards to that,” the Queenslander said on Wednesday.
“Actually, I miss the guys, I miss the guys that left. In regards to some of those guys like Phil and Dustin, Cammy and all those guys, it‘s kind of sad that they left. But I’m OK with them coming back.
“I think the majors should have the best players in the world and I think those guys deserve the right to go in and play the major championships.
“Will it be awkward for some? Yes. For me it won‘t be because I’ll be catching up with some mates, which is going to be great and I‘m hoping that I get to see them.”
Other LIV members able to play are Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau – who finished in the top 10 at St Andrews last year – as well as former major winners Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed.
Last year, R&A chief Martin Slumbers said banning LIV players was “not on our agenda” and that stance has now been followed through.