GOLFERS taking part in a controversial Saudi-backed breakaway golf competition series will be allowed to compete at the 150th Open at St Andrews.

The R&A, which organises The Open, the oldest golf tournament in the world, has made its stand amidst the LIV Golf $2bn Saudi-funded storm which is rocking the status quo in the sport.

Earlier this month, the US PGA Tour suspended 17 of its members for playing at the breakaway competition opener at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire and have warned of the same punishment for future defectors.

The LIV Golf tournament, held at Centurion Club near London, was the most lucrative in the history of the game with a $25m (£20m) prize fund. It is the most lucrative and arguably controversial golf tournament in the world.

Among those who joined are two-time major champion Dustin Johnson, the world number 15, who as the highest-ranked player in the 48-man field. The next highest is South Africa's former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, the world number 21.

Phil Mickelson, who became the oldest major champion when he won the 2021 US PGA Championship also joined.

HeraldScotland: Phil Mickelson

It has become controversial because of the source of the funding for LIV Golf Investments and its threat to the status quo of the game.

The series will feature six more tournaments in 2022 - four in the United States, one in Thailand and one in Saudi Arabia - each having the same $25m prize fund, meaning every leg of the series is more lucrative than the richest tournament on the US PGA Tour.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is backing the LIV Golf tour, has Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as its chairman. A declassified US intelligence report released in February 2021 asserted that the Bin Salman was complicit in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi - an allegation Bin Salman has denied.

The Gulf kingdom is one of the states accused of investing in sport and using high-profile events to 'sports wash' its reputation in other parts of the world.

Disney, Uber, Facebook and Starbucks are just some of the companies to have received hundreds of millions of pounds from PIF, which owns 80% of Newcastle.

PIF is essentially a state savings account for the Saudi Arabian government.

It makes the bulk of its money from oil, which Saudi Arabia has sold all over the world.

Now Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, has said that there will be no action taken against players taking part in the LIV series.


He said: "The Open is golf's original championship and since it was first played in 1860, openness has been fundamental to its ethos and unique appeal.

"Players who are exempt or have earned a place through qualifying for The 150th Open in accordance with the entry terms and conditions will be able to compete in the Championship at St Andrews.

"We are focused on staging a world class championship in July and celebrating this truly historic occasion for golf. We will invest the proceeds of The Open, as we always do, for the benefit of golf which reflects our purpose to ensure that the sport is thriving 50 years from now."

It comes amidst reports that the DP World Tour will prevent LIV Golf rebels from playing at this year’s Scottish Open.

The event, which takes place at the Renaissance Club in East Lothian and boasts £6.5million in prize money, gets underway on July 7.

Acting as a warm-up tournament to the Open Championship, the North Berwick course regularly attracts PGA Tour stars preparing for a tilt at the Claret Jug.

LIV Golf is a start-up organisation, fronted by two-time major winner and former world number one Greg Norman.

The 67-year-old Australian is chief executive of LIV Golf Investments. In late 2021, it was announced they were to commit more than $200m (£145m) to 10 new Asian Tour events to be staged annually over the next decade.

In March of this year, LIV Golf announced a $250m eight-event invitational series and then, in May, Norman said that that he had secured an extra £1.6bn of funding from the PIF to turn the series into a 14-event league by 2024.

Mr Norman said: "We have a long-term vision and we're here to stay. We're going to grow the game, give more opportunities to players, and create a more entertaining product for fans."

He also revealed LIV Golf Investments made a "mind-blowingly enormous" offer to try tempt 15-time major winner Tiger Woods. "We're talking about high nine digits."

In May, Woods dismissed the LIV venture, saying: "I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. There's plenty of money out here."

Rory McIlroy, who has not played any event in Saudi Arabia over "moral" issues, declared the LIV Golf idea "dead in the water" in February.