The U.S. Open will permit Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and other players who have leaped away from the PGA Tour to compete next week at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
The move answers, at least in the short term, one of the key questions looming over the new LIV Golf tour: will players on that tour be able to compete in majors? For the U.S. Open, the answer is yes — for now, and under very strict conditions.
"We pride ourselves in being the most open championship in the world and the players who have earned the right to compete in this year’s championship, both via exemption and qualifying, will have the opportunity to do so," the USGA said in a statement. "Our field criteria were set prior to entries opening earlier this year and it’s not appropriate, nor fair to competitors, to change criteria once established.
The statement continued with a rationale that seems designed to head off any kind of initial litigation. "Regarding players who may choose to play in London this week, we simply asked ourselves this question — should a player who had earned his way into the 2022 U.S. Open, via our published field criteria, be pulled out of the field as a result of his decision to play in another event? And we ultimately decided that they should not."
The significant line comes at the start of the third paragraph: "Our decision regarding our field for the 2022 U.S. Open [emphasis added] should not be construed as the USGA supporting an alternative organizing entity, nor supportive of any individual player actions or comments. Rather, it is simply a response to whether or not the USGA views playing in an alternative event, without the consent of their home tour, an offense that should disqualify them for the U.S. Open."
The question going forward will be whether players who don't already have exempt status into the tournament will be able to rely on alternate means of qualification. Will the USGA recognize the LIV tour as a viable tour for the purposes of qualifying winners? That's yet to be decided, but for now, the door remains open for players who have made the jump.
That sets up what's likely to be a chaotic scene around Mickelson in particular, who hasn't played in four months and hadn't spoken publicly prior to Monday since late February. His comments that waved off human rights violations of Saudi Arabia, which is backing the LIV tour, drew widespread condemnation and cost him significant sponsorships.
If LIV players are able to continue to compete in majors, that makes the prospect of jumping to the incredibly lucrative LIV tour that much more enticing for players interested in money without regard for its source.
The first LIV event takes place this week in London. The U.S. Open starts next Thursday in Brookline.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.