It was only last week IrishGolfer.ie reported Australia’s Wade Ormsby was heading into the Christmas/New Year festive season break enjoying a slender lead in his goal to be crowned Asian Tour No. 1 and thus earn a tee-time into next July’s 150th hosting of the Open Championship.
However, in a shock move the R&A as organisers of golf’s oldest major has stripped the Asian Tour of the only ‘stand alone’ exception the Tour enjoys into The Open.
Already, the news has been greeted with suggestions the R&A is penalising the Asian Tour for its involvement in the Greg Norman-backed Saudi Golf League with the Asian Tour, in conjunction with Norman’s LIV Golf Investments venture, recently announcing a 10-year, $US200 million cash injection to create an annual 10-event series on the Tour.
It is known Norman is not the R&A’s favourite former Open Champion having refused all R&A requests, for a number of bizarre reasons, to return to The Open since last contesting the championship in 2009. Norman’s involvement now in this new Saudi-backed arrangement has seemingly only added to his unpopularity among those running the game. Don’t expect to see ‘The Shark’ at next year’s 150th Open Championship celebrations in St. Andrews.
It was not noted on December 15th when the R&A released details of those tournaments around the golfing globe that would host qualifying entry into next July’s Open that finishing Asian Tour No.1 was missing from the list that would see 46 players earn an Old Course tee time.
Australian Golf Digest magazine contacted the R&A CEO Martin Slumbers seeking an explanation for the decision to drop the Asian Tour No.1 category from their 2022 list of qualifications.
“We review and update our exemptions from time to time and any changes are considered carefully by our championship committee” was the reply the magazine received from the R&A.
It hardly answers the question of why of all of golf’s major male tours, the Asian Tour No.1 category should be removed from the 2022 Open Championship qualifying picture when finishing No.1 on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour is included in the exemptions.
The Asian Tour, as golf’s third-largest tour, has been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic and it was only in recent weeks the Tour was able to stage two events in Phuket and will round off it’s 2021/22 season with next month’s SMBC Singapore Open and the hosting of the Hong Kong Open, an event Ormsby proudly won first in 2017 as a then co-sanctioned Asian and European Tour event and then in 2020 as an Asian Tour tournament.
Little wonder, the 41-year-old Ormsby was looking forward to teeing-up in both Singapore and Hong Kong with the prospect of heading to what would be a maiden Open Championship.
“Winning an Order of Merit title is something that would be great to have on the resume along with the long exemptions that go with it and the opportunities that could open for you,” he told the PGA of Australia recently.
“The chance to win an Order of Merit is something that doesn’t come along too often in people’s careers so that’s definitely my main motivation at this point.”
Australian Golf Digest also reported it believed Slumbers advised the Asian Tour last Friday via an email the R&A would be dropping ‘The Asian Tour No.1’ exemption from its 2022 list of exemptions.
However, while the Asian Tour has lost its one and only independent Open exemption category, three tournaments it co-sanctions still retain their qualifying rights – SMBC Singapore Open (co-sanctioned with Japan Tour), Kolon Korea Open (Korean Golf Association) and the recently added New Zealand Open (PGA Tour of Australasia).
All this means that Ormsby may still get to tee-up in a first Open Championship but it will not be by finishing Asian Tour No. 1.