The 18 LIV rebels who have entered next week’s BMW PGA Championship have been told they are not welcome to play in the pro-am and have been asked not to wear any logos linked to the Saudi rebel circuit.
Rory McIlroy declared on Sunday that “it will be hard to stomach” seeing the defectors at Wentworth and if the likes of Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were in any doubt at all that they would not have the red carpet treatment at their home circuits flagship event then the email from Wentworth HQ confirmed otherwise.
“As an FYI, you will not be required to play in the Wednesday pro-am and out of respect for our broadcasters and your fellow competitors we would kindly ask you to consider not wearing LIV-golf apparel,” the letter said.
While the PGA Tour has issued indefinite bans to the LIV signees, the DP World Tour – formerly European Tour – saw its initial sanctions overturned at an injunction last month and so must wait for the conclusion to a court case that will run into the new year.
Not only does this leave its LIV members free to play – with Westwood having made the cut in the $8 million event on a remarkable 20 occasions – but also anyone in the world’s top 60. Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and Kevin Na are three Americans who have taken the opportunity, with Matt Fitzpatrick calling the impending scenario in Surrey “awkward” and “disappointing.”
It was a significant day for the Tour as it responded to the ongoing LIV threat as it handed Luke Donald more power than any other previous Europe Ryder Cup captain by granting six wildcards for next year’s match in Rome.
Yet as much as this change is to ensure the Englishman can field the strongest line-up, it has also been made to render it even harder for any Saudi league rebel to qualify.
Because of the turmoil caused by LIV, with Donald replacing Henrik Stenson last month after the Swede broke his contract to join the breakaway circuit in a £40 million switch, this is the latest Ryder Cup Europe has ever released the details of its qualification process that starts at Wentworth.
While Padraig Harrington only had – and, bafflingly, only requested – three captain’s picks for the humiliating defeat in Wisconsin a year ago, Donald and vice-captains Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari will decide on half of the dozen whose mission will be to stop Team USA winning on European soil for the first time in 30 years.
It brings the blue and gold brigade in line with their opponents, with their captain Zach Johnson also having six selections after the US retained the system brought in by Steve Stricker during the pandemic two years ago. However, in Europe this was considered to favour the top players too much. Until now.
3 European Points List 🇪🇺
3 World Points List 🌎
6 Captain’s Picks 🤔
2023 Ryder Cup qualification will begin at the 2022 BMW PGA Championship next week.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) August 30, 2022
It is almost impossible to envisage a LIV player cracking the team by right under these circumstances. Donald might come under pressure near the time to call up an in-form LIV player, but because of the overwhelming sentiment in the corridors of power and the locker room it is highly unlikely the Englishman would cave in. Donald said, via a statement: “The six picks give me flexibility to ensure we have the strongest line-up.”
Westwood will no doubt see the irony in one of his suggestions being acted upon. When the former world No 1 was considering throwing his hat into the captaincy, he insisted that the same mistake should not be made again when it comes to the final qualifying event.
Harrington ignored misgivings about the BMW PGA being the stage for the qualification finishing line, just seven days before the team flew out to Whistling Straits. “Players don’t need this week, two weeks before the Ryder Cup,” Westwood said, referring to the “draining” effects of the battle.
Donald agrees with his former team-mate. “We have moved the end of the qualification period forward to give the players the right amount of preparation time once they have made the team,” he said.