By Bernie McGuire in Dubai
The disappointment was obvious for Wade Ormsby but he bravely took it on the chin; the decision by the R&A to strip the Asian Tour of the reward of the yearly end-of-season No. 1 ranked player earning an automatic spot into the Open Championship.
Ormsby was heading to the tail end of 2021 leading the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and on track to earn an exemption into his first Open Championship, to be staged this year on the famed Old Course at the Home of Golf.
All the 41-year-old Adelaide golfer had to do was to maintain his lead atop of the Asian money-list and the three-time Tour winner would become a part of the 150th Open Championship.
That dream was shattered in December last year when the R&A announced, in a shock move, it was stripping the Asian Tour of the only then ‘stand alone’ exception the Tour enjoys into The Open.
It was an exemption similarly awarded at the end of each year to the PGA Tour No. 1, The DP World Tour No. 1 and the Australasian Tour No. 1.
The news was greeted with suggestions that 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.
The R&A’s Martin Slumbers was contacted by Australian Golf Digest to enquire about the decision and he replied: “We review and update our exemptions from time to time and any changes are considered carefully by our championship committee”.
Ormsby’s been competing on golf’s third-biggest Tour for more than a decade and has 346 appearances, on the now renamed DP World Tour over some 17-years on the DP World Tour.
He’s a member of both Tour’s.
The proud Aussie capped his career in 2017 by capturing the co-sanctioned Hong Kong Open and then in January 2020 he denied then Open Champion Shane Lowry winning the same event.
However, in speaking with Ormsby at this week’s Slynco.io Dubai Desert Classic, I don’t think I have heard him so down-hearted when asked about the news at the end of last year.
“I was away at the time and my phone wasn’t working, so it was perfect”, he said.
“Clearly, it would have been nice to have earned The Open invitation but the way it has all worked out it doesn’t really matter now that the decision is made”.
After a long Covid-19 related break mid-2021, Ormsby juggled his European Tour year to play in a handful of events added to the Asian Tour at the end of the year, so as to try and cement an Open Championship tee time.
“I made a good start on the Asian money-list and if you are in a good situation on any order of merit ranking, you would like to try and give yourself every opportunity to win the title”, he said.
“And there was that added reward if you won the No. 1 title but, anyway, it didn’t work out and we move on.
“Looking at it, the Asian Tour and the European Tour had a long-standing relationship until recently. Even being Australian-born and trying to play both Tours there has always been a large number of co-sanctioned events between the European Tour and the Asian Tour.
“The thing is as a professional golfer you want to be able to play the best possible schedule you can, and I will try to play a schedule I have always played and that means teeing-up on the DP World Tour, the Asian Tour, and then back in Australia and New Zealand.
“I’ve played the majority of my golf in Europe, and Australia over the last 20 or so years.
“I have played more Asian and Europe co-sanctioned events than I have Asian Tour events, and it’s a case sticking to a schedule I have always played”.
Ormsby will join many other European Tour members contesting this coming week’s now Asian Tour flagship, the $5m Saudi International which entailed having to obtain permission from the European Tour.
Ormsby still can resurrect his dream of teeing up in a first Open Championship and also a first major, given we are early into a new golfing season.
Here’s wishing he’ll still get that opportunity come July.