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R&A removes Asian Tour Order of Merit winner's Open Championship exemption

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In what appears to be an escalation in the expanding divide between professional golf’s status quo and the long-rumored super league the R&A has removed the exemption into next year’s Open Championship for the winner of the Asian Tour’s order of merit.

“We review and update our exemptions from time to time and any changes are considered carefully by our championships committee,” the R&A said in a statement.

There is speculation that the move is a response to a long-term investment of $200 million into the Asian Tour by LIV Golf Investments, the fund that’s behind the proposed rival tour that is led by Greg Norman.

There remain access points for Asian Tour players to qualify for The Open via the championship’s qualifying series. The New Zealand Open was added to the list of qualifying series events along with the SMBC Singapore Open and Kolon Korea Open, which are all co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour.

Still, the move by the R&A was a blow for the Asian circuit.

“The members of the Asian Tour are surprised and disappointed with the R&A’s decision to exclude the Asian Tour’s order of merit champion from being exempt for the 2022 Open Championship,” the tour said in a statement. “The decision to single out the Asian Tour from the exemption list doesn’t appear to carry clear rationale or merit, neither is it representative of our long-standing association, in supporting the R&A’s mission to develop the game through the Asia Pacific continent.

The Asian Tour’s Tournament Players Commits, its members and our executive leadership team implore [R&A chief executive] Martin Slumbers and the championship committee to reconsider the current position and reinstate a qualification spot for the Asian Tour’s own champion golfer of the year – who we believe will have earned his right to compete alongside the world’s best.”

Australian Wade Ormsby is the current order of merit leader with the circuit that's set to resume its schedule in January with two events in Singapore.

Along with the 10-year, $200 million investment into the Asian Tour by LIV Golf, which is at least partially funded by the Saudi Arabian public investment fund, the circuit added the Saudi International to its schedule starting next year.