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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: The Genesis Scottish Open is the ‘sixth major’

Masters champion and World No 1 Scottie Scheffler is one of 14 or the world's top 15 playing at the Genesis Scottish Open.
Masters champion and World No 1 Scottie Scheffler is one of 14 or the world's top 15 playing at the Genesis Scottish Open.

The sixth major? If we were up for having that many – which I’m definitely not – the Genesis Scottish Open this week at The Renaissance would currently be it.

The four majors are pretty set in stone. The fifth major, self-proclaimed, is the Players Championship.

T2G is always in number-nerd territory and has made prolific use of the Official Golf World Rankings’ Strength of Field (SoF) rating in the past.

Newly co-sanctioned between the DP World and PGA Tour as part of their initial “strategic partnership”, the Scottish Open has taken an almighty leap in SoF. Last year it was 424. This year, it’s going to be in the 640s.

That elevates our dear old national championship to sixth place so far in 2022 – behind (in SoF order) the PGA Championship, US Open, The Players, the Masters and the WGC Matchplay.

The Scottish outguns even the big PGA Tour events

14 of the world’s top 15 are playing in the Scottish – Rory McIlroy is the sole absentee. All four major champions are present. Even the loss of the LIVers (and more on that below) hasn’t really affected the strength of field rank.

The Scottish outguns Genesis’ other PGA Tour event, the former LA Open in February. And the ‘legacy’ championships, Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It will be the DP World (formerly European) Tour’s highest ranked event of all time.

Our fears that the PGA Tour’s half-share was really a takeover, and that native Scots would be frozen out, appear to have been largely assuaged.

David Law – fresh from securing an 150th Open spot in Ireland – and Drumoig’s Connor Syme were given invitations to play on Monday morning.

That takes the Scottish contingent to eight. Ewen Ferguson, Grant Forrest, Stevie Gallacher, Robert MacIntyre, Richie Ramsay and the much welcome return of Russell Knox are the others.

Time was when we’d have up to 20 in the Scottish Open, of course. Stalwarts of our current professional contingent like Marc Warren, Scott Jamieson and David Drysdale have regrettably been frozen out.

The benefits outweigh any small detriments

But I think we all accepted that some sacrifices would have to be made in this process. And the benefits of having this enhanced Scottish far outweigh any detriments.

The Scottish Open has become a massively important shop window for our game worldwide.

Exposure on network TV in the USA and widespread coverage in Asian markets, with EventScotland’s excellent golf team nudging things along, has been lucrative for the entire country.

And this week is likely to be a sounding board for the future of the strategic partnership. That’s in addition to the update announced by Jay Monahan and Keith Pelley last week.

They were coy about more co-sanctioned events then. One assumes they’ll be talking about it a bit more after this week.

A mutual hostility

I don’t really need to repeat T2G’s position on the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, we’ve been over it SO many times.

But even I was struck at the real antipathy for the rebels amongst some players when chatting with them in the past week.

Some of the LIVers came back into the fold – for the first and possibly last time – at the BMW International in Germany the other week. The mutual hostility seems to have been visceral.

One tour veteran – a multiple time winner – told me he was appalled by Sergio Garcia’s behaviour, ranting loudly at his former colleagues and scowling alone at the far end of the driving range.

You’d probably expect Garcia to be like that, and expect the response. But I got the same distaste from my vet for Martin Kaymer, previously a widely popular figure on the Tour.

Perhaps the LIVers’ demand there be a full meeting of tour membership to vote on these matters should be entertained. You very much doubt it would have the outcome they seem to envisage.

LIV Golf’s huge OWGR problem

Golf’s Civil War seems to me to hinge on one key battleground – the complex labyrinthe that is the Official World Golf Rankings.

Rightly or wrongly – and it’s so entrenched now the argument hardly matters – the rankings are the primary route into the majors. LIV Golf, unless they plan a complete takeover of all of golf, surely want their events to be ranked.

LIV falls down on 15 requirements needed for world ranking status – playing just 54 holes for a start. The board of the OWGR has Messrs Monahan and Pelley on it as well, so any application is unlikely to sail through.

But let’s assume that they recuse themselves from any vote for the obvious conflict of interest. Also that all the other, probably manageable, obstacles are negotiated. LIV still have an enormous OWGR problem.

DJ Piehowski of the No Laying Up podcast explained this complicated subject in full, and all the many caveats. But by removing themselves from the main tours as they have already done, the LIVers have sent their rankings into an unavoidable nosedive.

The last Open Championship for some?

It could take more than a year for LIV to get sanctioned for OWGR. It means for LIVers who can still get in, the majors are really their only chance of maintaining their ranking.

Meanwhile, they’ll be plummetting – 10 places a month is the going rate – if they can’t play ranked events. And any new LIVer faces the same issue.

Many LIVers are major champions with long exemptions to some, if not all, of the majors. Louis Oosthuizen and Phil Mickelson, for example, can play until they’re 60 at The Open. Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel and Sergio have lifetime passes to Augusta.

But it’s actually pretty possible that next week could be Sergio, Schwartzel, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter’s last Open. And the likes of Abraham Ancer and Talor Gooch might have wrecked their major futures already.