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PGA CEO Seth Waugh says it wants best field ‘no matter what tours they’re playing on’

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – PGA of America officials made clear Tuesday that they will continue to invite the best players in the world to compete at the PGA Championship – no matter what tour they play on.

Though PGA CEO Seth Waugh reiterated that he didn’t believe LIV Golf had a sustainable business model and that this level of disruption wasn’t good for the game, there are no immediate plans to tweak exemption categories that could directly result in fewer LIV players in future PGA fields.

“The process for inviting players who are playing well enough and good enough, we will consider no matter what tours they’re playing on, just as we do this year,” said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer.

There are 17 LIV players (former PGA champion Martin Kaymer withdrew) in the 156-man field this week at Oak Hill, but that number could decrease next year with LIV not currently eligible to receive points in the Official World Golf Ranking. The rival tour submitted its application last July, and a decision is expected later this year.

Full-field tee times from the PGA Championship

Waugh, who is a member of the OWGR’s governing board, said that it has been a “collegial back and forth” between the OWGR and LIV over the past several months as the board determines whether the tour should be awarded points – and if so, how many.

Only five LIV players remain in the top 50 in the world ranking, which endangers their prospects of qualifying for future major championships based on the current exemption criteria. Hoping for a swift resolution, LIV players and officials have blasted the OWGR’s process and claimed the ranking system is becoming increasingly obsolete if it does not recognize some of the circuit’s top players.

“There has been a healthy back and forth,” Waugh said. “It has not been acrimonious.

“This is not an us-versus-them. The OWGR, the whole point is to create a level playing field, a yardstick by which to measure the game. Our job is to measure tours. Not players, but tours, and how they perform on those tours to come up with that yardstick. That’s where we’re all attempting to try to do.”

Waugh has been highly critical of LIV for more than two years, before the league had even launched. He said in a recent interview that LIV was burning through money and doesn’t believe that it is a superior product to the PGA Tour. When asked whether he should be neutral in this matter – given the power of his position on the OWGR board – Waugh said that he was trying to act in the best interest of the game.

“What we’re about this week is having it be the greatest field in golf. We said that’s what we wanted to do, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said. “I’ve been very consistent in that I don’t think division is in the best interest of the game. I struggle with understanding how it’s a sustainable business model. …

“When asked, I tend to say what I believe. That’s not being a neutral body. I think being a neutral body is always acting in the best interest of the game, and that’s what we’ll always do and that’s what I’ll always do.”