Louis Oosthuizen to become highest-ranked player to join Saudi rebel series

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Louis Oosthuizen to become highest-ranked player to join Saudi rebel series - DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES
Louis Oosthuizen to become highest-ranked player to join Saudi rebel series - DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES

After more than two years of reports, rumours and promises from within, the Saudi rebel circuit will finally announce players who will officially play in their opening LIV Golf Invitational next month in Hertfordshire.

Initially, Greg Norman was intent on unveiling his first signees during this week’s US PGA Championship but was persuaded out of trying to take even a few rays of the spotlight from the season’s second major winner.

Louis Oosthuiizen is believed to have been extremely keen to “respect the integrity of the majors” and wait until either Monday or Tuesday for his participation in the $25m, 54-holer at Centurion to be made official. The full 48-man field is then expected to be made public on Friday.

The South African will be LIV’s highest-ranked player at world No 15 and although the 39-year-old is not a huge name - and will take billing behind Ryder Cup heroes including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer - there can be no doubt of his enduring quality.  The man from Mossel Bay won the 2010 Open and has five major runner-ups on his impressive CV, including back-to-back seconds last year at the US Open and USPGA.

Oosthuizen has suffered a poor start to this year after contracting Covid and being stuck in his homeland for two months around the new year. He is still waiting for his first top 10 of 2022 and that will not happen here at Southern Hills as he only scraped inside the cut. But Oosthuizen will still be fancied as an outsider for July’s 150th Open at St Andrews.

He lifted the Claret Jug at the Home of Golf 12 years and was only beaten in a play-off by Zach Johnson the last time the Open was staged at the hallowed Fife venue in 2015.

It will be intriguing to see if and how the first two tournaments of the eight-event $255 million series will have affected golf’s landscape by the time the British major swings around. Will Oosthuizen and Co be banned from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour - formerly the European Tour - because of disobeying their orders not to tee it up on the breakaway circuit? And will the R&A honour the tours’ punishments and act accordingly in setting its field for the Open?

It is highly likely that the heavily predicted legal fight will be under way by then and the players who do press on regardless have been assured by LIV and chief executive Norman that their short-term inclusion in the game’s biggest events will be protected by injunctions their lawyers have waiting to file.

Oosthuizen, Garcia and Kaymer have qualified for next month’s US Open, but Westwood and Poulter are not currently in the Brookline field. Both missed the cut here meaning there is only one chance left to earn a spot without going through the torment of entering final qualifying. The pair must rise from their respective ranking positions of 71st and 83rd into the world’s top 60 by Monday June 6. That also happens to be the week of the LIV curtain-raiser.

Meanwhile Richard Bland is 58th and, after missing the cut, is anxiously checking to see if he is knocked out of the top 60 for the first cut-off point on Monday.. The Hampshire 49-year-old announced earlier this week that he will appear at Centurion “ban or no ban”.