South Africa’s leading golfers are collectively bidding to extend recent successes in the breakaway LIV series to more established competitions on the European Tour and U.S. PGA.
They also need that “regular” play to gain points for the official world rankings and to qualify for the sport’s majors.
Over the past three weeks, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace bagged the biggest paydays of their careers — approximately R66 million — by winning the opening LIV tournaments in London, England, and Portland, U.S., respectively.
In addition, Louis Oosthuizen’s unit won the unique team element of the “rebel” series in the London competition and also did well in Portland, which meant even more prize money for the South Africans on top of the spectacular sums earned in the individual play.
However, the European Tour and U.S. PGA continue to seek ways to punish defectors to LIV, not least because they stand to lose even more members than they have already lost to the Saudi-backed series’ far superior purses.
This controversy has just seen Grace and compatriot Justin Harding go to court along with two other men to secure places in this week’s Scottish Open.
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They were previously banned from the event, which is co-sanctioned by the European and American circuits, but Scottish officials have had to increase the field from 156 to 160 players because of the court ruling.
Similar cases are likely to emerge in coming weeks and months in this major disruption to the golf world.
Grace and Harding are joined at the Scottish Open’s tee-off at The Renaissance Club outside Edinburgh this morning by fellow South African players Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Dean Burmester, Erik van Rooyen, Dylan Frittelli, Garrick Higgo, Brandon Stone and Daniel van Tonder.
The total prize fund there is $8 million (about R132 million), which is “only” double what Grace and Schwartzel each earned as winners of the two LIV tournaments held so far.
On American soil, there is the Barbasol Championship starting today at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and its total purse is $3,7 million (roughly R60 million).
This “modest” figure partly stems from the PGA having an interest in the simultaneous Scottish Open alongside the DP World Tour, which is the current brand title for the European Tour.
South African hopefuls in the Barbasol Championship are George Coetzee, Haydn Porteous, Richard Sterne, Justin Walters and Dawie van der Walt.