Masters criteria allows LIV players to play in the 2023 tournament

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Augusta National Golf Club announced Tuesday that any golfer who qualified for the Masters tournament based on its previous criteria will be invited to play in 2023, including 16 players currently competing in the LIV Golf League.

Six former Masters champions are part of the group that left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf: Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel.

“Sadly, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it,” Augusta National Golf Club President Fred Ridley said in a statement. “While we are disappointed by these developments, our focus is on honoring the tradition of assembling a prominent field of golfers this coming April.

“Therefore, as invitations go out this week, we will be inviting those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament. As we’ve said in the past, we review all aspects 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 believe that golf, which has overcome many challenges over the years, will endure again.”

The Masters, the first major tournament of the season, is scheduled to be played April 6-9 in Augusta, Georgia.

Australian Cameron Smith, the No. 3 player in the world, qualified to win the 2022 Open Championship and Players. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka were invited because they have won the US Open or PGA Championship in the past five years. Joaquin Niemann and Talor Gooch are on the course after qualifying for the season-ending Tour Championship before heading to LIV Golf and by being ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Abraham Ancer, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen are also in the OWGR Top 50 and were invited. Additionally, any other player in the top 50 in the week prior to the 2023 event would also earn an invite.

Whether Augusta National would change its criteria to make it harder for LIV golfers to compete in the Masters has been one of the game’s pressing questions during the months-long battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour for the best players in the world.

LIV Golf, which is being led by two-time Open Championship champion Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, has attracted many of the circuit’s most recognized players with guaranteed signing bonuses reportedly worth $200 million, as well as the richest purses in the history of the sport.

When Mickelson, DeChambeau and nine other LIV players filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on August 3, the plaintiffs suggested that the tour was in collusion with the four major championships to prohibit LIV golfers from competing in the sport’s most important events. In the lawsuit, attorneys for the LIV golfers accused Ridley of working behind the scenes on the PGA Tour.

The complaint said that Augusta National representatives “threatened to disinvite Masters players if they joined LIV Golf”. He claimed that Ridley “personally instructed” players at this year’s tournament not to defect to LIV Golf and that he refused to sit down with Norman to discuss the new course’s business model.

Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, did not compete in this year’s tournament after he was heavily criticized for his comments about the “unpleasant greed” of the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s history of human rights violations. At the Masters, Ridley said Mickelson was not uninvited to play.