Augusta National open Masters invitation door to eligible LIV golfers

Fatiha Betscher
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Masters champion Dustin Johnson tries on the Green Jacket after his 20-under-par victory during Round 4 of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club

After months of speculation, the powers that be at Augusta National have spoken, and it’s good news for those players already exempt and competing on LIV.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley has issued a statement to confirm that all those eligible under the tournament’s current qualifying criteria will be invited this week to the 2023.

The statement read: “From its inception in 1934, the purpose of the Masters Tournament has been to benefit the game of golf. Each April, the Masters assembles the world’s leading golfers to compete for the Green Jacket and a place in history. It provides a stage for fans to experience dramatic moments of competition at the highest level and promotes the sport domestically and abroad.

“Through the years, legends of the game have competed and won at Augusta National Golf Club. Champions like Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have become heroes to golfers of all ages. They have inspired some to follow in their footsteps and so many others to play and enjoy the game. They have supported the sport and, thus, all who benefit from it. They have shown respect for those who came before them and blazed a trail for future generations. Golf is better because of them.

“Regrettably, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it. Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming April.

“Therefore, as invitations are sent this week, we will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament. As we have said in the past, we look at every aspect of the Tournament each year, and any modifications or changes to invitation criteria for future Tournaments will be announced in April.

“We have reached a seminal point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through the years, will endure again.”

The statement means six past champs and now LIV players: Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel will be eligible to compete next April.

As well, Aussie Cameron Smith qualifies for winning the 2022 Open Championship. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are invited because they have won the U.S. Open in the past five years. Joaquin Niemann was in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and qualifies after leaving the PGA Tour in September.

Other LIV players who will now be heading to the 2023 Masters include: Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen who are all in the top 50 in the current World Golf Rankings and should earn an invite. Also, any player in the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings on the week prior to the 2023 event would also earn an invitation.

News of Augusta National’s decision will surely come as a big blow to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and will surely influence respective decisions of the PGA of America, the USGA and the R&A with respect to player eligibility to tee-up in the 2023 PGA Championship, the US Open and the 151st Open Championship.

And looking ahead to February’s courtroom showdown, it must also boost LIV Golf’s hopes of winning their battle with ‘the establishment’.

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