Calls grow for major boost to Australian Open golf

Calls are growing louder for the Australian Open to be elevated in global status in a bid to unify world golf after two years of civil warfare.

Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley is advocating for the winner of Australia's flagship event to earn entry to all four major championships in a way of strengthening the fields as fewer and fewer LIV golfers qualify.

Presently, players from the Saudi-backed rebel tour are unable to accrue ranking points at LIV tournaments, sending the likes of former world No.1s Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and Australia's 2022 British Open champion Cameron Smith plunging down the standings.

Paul McGinley
Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley has backed the Australian Open's 'fifth Major' credentials.

Johnson's position as No.312 despite being a dual major champion and three-time LIV winner in the past 18 months has made a mockery of the rankings.

At world No.68, after being as high as second after he triumphed at St Andrews less than two years ago, Smith would ordinarily have missed out on a Masters berth this week.

As it stands, Smith will be ineligible for the majors once his five-year exemption expires at the end of 2027.

But McGinley's proposal, which is drawing support from fellow commentators and golf aficionados, could prove a circuit breaker for the divided game.

"The majors are in a bit of a quandary as players slip on those rankings," he told the Golf Channel.

"How how do they ensure the fields include the best players in the world?

"The obvious answer is that there's got to be a way for certain players in whatever tour they are playing to be able to win their way in.

"Why not make the winner of the Australian Open exempt to all four majors? Not just the Masters.

"You talk about growing the game, that would bring players, some of the best players in the world, to Australia knowing that a win would get them in all four majors.

"Those kinds of things to me are more transparent."

The Australian Open was once regarded as golf's unofficial fifth major.

Jack Nicklaus is a six-time winner of the Stonehaven Cup, Gary Player a seven-times champion and a raft of other all-time greats including Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Gene Sarazen also have their names etched on the trophy.

Former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch says, regardless of the world rankings debate, he would love to see more of the sport's superstars  playing in the Australian Open.

As a PGA Tour commentator, Baker-Finch attends all four majors annually and is promising to try to lure more big guns down under in his new role as   incoming PGA of Australia chair.

“If the event is really good, they will come,” he told reporters at Augusta National.

“Rory McIlroy has said to me, ‘Hey, Finchy, you make sure you tell me when we're going to Kingston Heath, I’ll come down and play’.

“If you look at the players’ guides, a lot of them will say their favourite course in the world is Royal Melbourne or Kingston Heath or somewhere in the sandbelt."

Baker-Finch, though, is unsure how long the LIV Golf tour will even last in its current format.

"I doubt very much that LIV, as it is, survives long-term," he said.

"I just don't see shotgun starts, 54 holes. And don't give me ‘grow the game’ - that’s not what they are doing at all.

“It’s growing their bank accounts."

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