‘No need to change Europe Ryder Cup eligibility for LIV players’

Home » ‘No need to change Europe Ryder Cup eligibility for LIV players’

Ryder Cup stars Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton remain eligible for selection for Europe’s defence of the trophy next year, as long as they pay fines and serve bans that will follow their move to the rival LIV Golf League.

New DP World Tour boss Guy Kinnings insists there is no need to change existing rules on Ryder Cup eligibility, despite the defection of two of Europe’s mainstays from their victory over the United States in Rome last autumn.

Kinnings began his tenure as chief executive of the European Tour Group earlier this month when he succeeded Keith Pelley. The Englishman comes into the job at a time when men’s professional golf is mired in a battle for its future.

When Spaniard Rahm signed his lucrative deal to join the Saudi Arabia-funded LIV set up, his Ryder Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy initially stated that rules will need to be altered to ensure the Masters champion of 2023 remains a part of the team, although he later rescinded that.

But the new man in charge at the Wentworth-based tour believes no such move is required. “If you look at eligibility criteria for 2023, then I think there has been a slight misconception,” he told reporters.

“The reality is, under the current rules, if a player is European, a member of the DP World Tour and abides by the rules – if you don’t get a release there are sanctions and you take those penalties – there is no reason why players who have taken LIV membership could not qualify or be available for selection.”

Rahm and Hatton remain members of the DP World Tour despite now plying their trade on the LIV circuit. Each time they tee it up on in the breakaway league they have to apply for a release from the establishment tour if they are staging a tournament simultaneously.

The DP World Tour typically refuses such waivers which then puts the players in breach of the rules. Fines of up to £100,000 and tournament suspensions are then imposed.

Last year these punishments prompted the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia to resign their membership, rendering them ineligible for the Ryder Cup.

The punishments were deemed fair by an independent arbitration panel who published their findings just over a year ago.

“We take everything on a case by case basis,” Kinnings stated. “Everything must be done in a fair, reasonable, proportionate way – that is what Sports Resolutions ruled on.”

The new CEO admitted that suspensions can be handed out for weeks where the player being punished might not be seeking to play on the DP World Tour anyway.

Kinnings also said he has been advised there are enough weeks in the calendar for LIV players to serve their punishments and still play the requisite four events to retain membership.

“All suspensions will count and you have to serve them,” Kinnings said. “And the guys who’ve analysed this in detail have said if they do it the right way, there is no reason why they can’t play in the Ryder Cup.

“We’re not going to change anything on that basis. Rules are rules and they apply for every member.

“We’re not in a position to be changing rules that we’ve had to go to court to defend.”

Kinnings says “compromise” will be needed for the game to come together and settle its ongoing civil war. He believes the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), Yasir Al-Rumayyan, has an incentive to find a settlement.

“It has to be better for the professional game to find a single product and he is a very smart guy. He will know that,” Kinnings said.

“Everyone is going to have to give a bit to get to where you need to. The more you read headlines about viewership figures going down, people realise if they don’t move quickly there will be lasting damage.

“And I don’t think Yasir wants damage to the game, he clearly likes the game.”

But Kinnings admitted that, despite the announcement of a “framework agreement” 10 months ago, a meeting between all of the parties involved – the PIF, PGA and DP World Tours – to thrash out the future has yet to take place.

Since the announcement of the agreement, the PGA Tour has received $1.5bn (£1.2bn) investment from the US-based Strategic Sports Group, while LIV splashed out hundreds of millions on the signatures of leading Europeans Rahm, Hatton and Adrian Meronk.

Kinnings welcomed McIlroy’s recent return to the influential PGA Tour policy board. “I think his voice will be really, really important,” Kinnings said.

“We just have to get that negotiation started. I get the sense it should be happening fairly soon.”

McIlroy’s vision for the future involves accepting investment from Saudi Arabia and developing a “world tour” with the PGA and DP World circuits feeding into it.

“What do the fans want to see?” Kinnings asked. “They want to see the best players playing together as often as they can as well as the majors.

“That’s a model I can see being very appealing, but that’s only a part of the picture.

“Self evidently, if we are going to find a solution we are going to need to be thinking about how we integrate team golf in some way and that’s to satisfy what’s been with LIV, but also the recognition that we all love team golf.”

Kinnings says he is “hopeful” the game’s future will become clearer in the coming months but does not anticipate significant change until 2026. “We know we’ve got to try and get it fixed as soon as we possibly can,” he said.

“The reality is the 2026 season needs to be the one where there are significant changes.

“To do that you’ve got to have it done by the end of 2024 to give yourself 2025 to prepare and roll it out. I will be doing everything I can to encourage people to make a decision as quickly as possible.

“The truth is people are having to do stuff they never thought they’d have to and they’ve got to be willing to compromise. If we find a solution we’ll have to move fast to make it work, but people have to get in a room first to talk about it.”

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