SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Nearing his 40th birthday, the decision to leave the comfort of the PGA Tour and DP World Tours for the disruptive LIV Golf Invitational Series was, ultimately, not a difficult one for Louis Oosthuizen.
The South African who won the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews and contended in three major championships just last year saw an opportunity for a change in lifestyle and significant monetary gain.
With little fanfare, he quietly resigned his PGA Tour membership before he became known that he had joined LIV Golf and was fully ready to embrace a new chapter in his career.
But one thing he hoped he could still enjoy—and realized he was risking—was participating in the Presidents Cup.
The biennial competition that pits a United States team against an international squad from outside of Europe takes place next week at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, NC.
For reasons that have now become obvious for any LIV Golf player, Oosthuizen won’t be competing next week for captain and fellow South African Trevor Immelman.
Those who participate in LIV events are ineligible to compete in the Presidents Cup, which was a particularly tough blow to Immelman, who won’t have Open champion Cam Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Carlos Ortiz and other players such as Branden Grace and Oosthuizen. The US leads the competition 11–1–1 but the International squad made significant improvement in 2019, a final-day comeback for the Americans resulting in a tense 16–14 victory at Royal Melbourne.
“There’s a lot of pangs about missing next week,” Oosthuizen said at Rich Harvest Farms, where he is competing in this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Chicago event, the fifth in the series. “I think of us who are here—Charl, Brandon, Carlos—they would love to be able to play. It’s a bit of a stinger.
“I thought by resigning my membership before I did anything wrong really … there’s no rule that says I need to be a PGA Tour member to play the Presidents Cup, especially as an International team player. I didn’t think I did anything wrong. I made my decision where I am playing golf. But I didn’t do anything wrong while I was a PGA Tour member. I was a bit disappointed in the decision that I was on the list not being able to play.”
Although there were rumblings this might happen, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made it clear on the day of the first LIV Golf event on June 9 that those who played were “no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup. ”
Oosthuizen—as well as Grace—felt that by resigning their membership and still being members of the Sunshine Tour in their native South Africa, it would still be possible to earn a captain’s pick.
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“I feel the most bad for Trev,” said Oosthuizen, who has a 9–6–4 record in four Presidents Cup appearances, including 2–2–1 three years ago. “Trevor’s a good friend. We text each other. He knew my decision beforehand. But still, it sucks. I wanted to play for him. He’s going to be a great captain. He was a co-captain last time around with Ernie [Els].
“It just sucks that I can’t be around to try and do anything for the team.”
The International squad will be heavy underdogs next week. While the team still has Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im and Adam Scott, Immelman was forced to pick five rookies among his six at-large picks.
Oosthuizen, 39, is still ranked 33rd in the world despite not earning a world ranking point since the BMW International Open in June. Last year, he tied for second with Brooks Koepka behind PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson (all three are now with LIV), finished second to Jon Rahm at the US Open and tied for third at The Open behind winner Collin Morikawa.
In his career, Oosthuizen can boast (or lament) that he’s finished runner-up in all four major championships, having lost a play-off to Bubba Watson at the 2012 Masters and also missing out in a play-off at the 2015 Open to Zach Johnson.
“I was wavering because of that,” said Oosthuizen, who said he ultimately decided he would sign with LIV Golf in late April well before anyone had officially been signed. “The biggest thing for me was playing the majors. We’re not going to get world ranking points and that’s an issue. There are attempts to try and get them but I will probably move out of the top 50 at the end of this year and won’t be able to play the majors next year. Hopefully I’ll still be able to play in The Open [as a past champion].
“That’s the thing. I still have a lot of drives to play major golf. I did make my decision and in the back of my mind I was knowing there would be a possibility of not being able to play in the majors.”
At 33rd in the world, it is possible that Oosthuizen could hang on to his spot among the top 50—which is used as an end-of-year invitation criteria for the Masters.
There are also three Sunshine Tour events being played in South Africa he could consider in late November and December if he wanted to try and earn points.
For now, he’s focused on LIV Golf, which heads to Bangkok and Jedda next month before it’s season-ending event at Doral in late October.
Next week, he can only watch from afar. (While comforted in knowing that in addition to his signing bonus with LIV, through four events he’s earned $3,376,667 in prize money, which includes $2,251,667 for his performance as an individual.)
“I will be rooting 150 percent for the International team,” he said. “It’s always been one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a bit of a punch in the gut not to be able to play that. More so, not being able to be one of the players who is with a South African captain.”
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