US Open bosses had a “long conversation” over whether to allow LIV Golf rebels to play in this year’s tournament.
The Saudi-backed breakaway league has divided the game at the top level, with the PGA Tour issuing suspensions to every one of its members who took part in last week’s Centurion Club curtain-raiser.
Its opposition to the venture has been clear from the outset – but the stance of the four majors has, until now, been less clear.
However, Mike Whan, the USGA’s chief executive, revealed on Wednesday that the organisation seriously considered banning LIV players from the Country Club.
But when he was asked whether he could see it becoming more difficult for them to access the tournament in the future, he replied: “Yes.”
“We feel great responsibility to this game and we did sit down and have a long conversation about a week before the US Open about where someone else plays, what promoter they play it with and would we disqualify them from the event,” Whan said.
“We decided no on that, with all the awareness that not everybody would agree with our decision.
“Whether we all like it or not, in February 30 guys played for the same promoter in Saudi Arabia with an acceptable release from the PGA Tour. For years the DP World Tour has had an event there.
“We also had to ask the question that if we put that kind of clause in, we would have to go back to 9,300 people to see whoever had played where.
“Did those people disqualify themselves from the championship? The answer to that question is no.”
Among the claims emanating from the breakaway series that it is “good for the game”. However, Whan admitted he is sceptical – and insisted the sport is in a healthy position as it is.
“If you look at any number in the game, I’m not sure it’s been this healthy in a long time,” he said.
“I’m saddened by what’s happening in the professional game, mostly as a fan because I love seeing the best players in the world coming together to play. This is going to fracture that.
“I’ve heard this is good for the game. From the outside, it looks as though it’s good for a few folks playing the game. I’m struggling with how this is good for the game.
“The thing that gets me as a former commissioner of the LPGA; you walk into a board meeting and it’s players. Professional golf has been, for a long time, their sport and not a couple of people’s sport. What saddens me is we may get to a point where a couple of people hold the strings.”