Augusta National scolds LIV defectors, stops short of Masters ban

Augusta national clubhouse

Augusta National Golf Club released a statement addressing LIV golfers, saying any player who has qualified for its event will not be banned.

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The 2023 Masters will welcome every golfer who has qualified — regardless of what tour they play on.

In a statement from Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley on Tuesday morning, the club paved the way for golfers from both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to earn entry into next April’s tournament. While Ridley didn’t go as far as to name the upstart tour explicitly in his statement, he noted Augusta National will invite “those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament” — effectively ruling out a LIV Golf Masters ban.

“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,” the statement said. “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.”

LIV Golf completed its first season in 2022; an eight-event series that ended in late October at Trump National Doral. Fourteen events are on the schedule for 2023.

Although it’s been a popular topic in the golf world for much of the last year, none of golf’s four majors — which are all run by different organizations — have banned LIV players from competing. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, however, has banned LIV players from the PGA Tour and from competing in its marquee event, the Players Championship.

“Some of these (LIV) players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships. That is a possibility,” said Tiger Woods, one of the PGA Tour’s biggest backers, speaking at the 2022 Open Championship. “We don’t know that for sure yet. It’s up to all the major championship bodies to make that determination. But that is a possibility, that some players will never, ever get a chance to play in a major championship, never get a chance to experience this right here, walk down the fairways at Augusta National.”

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LIV golfers currently eligible for a 2023 Masters invite include Abraham Ancer, Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch and Brooks Koepka, as well as LIV golfers who have won the Masters: Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed. Mickelson decided to skip the 2022 Masters, which was during a stretch when he announced he’d take some time away from the game. Invitations for the 2023 tournament are expected to go out later this week.

“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,” the statement continued. “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 announcement puts to bed speculation that Augusta National would enforce a ban on LIV golfers at the Masters, an unprecedented move possible primarily by the tournament’s invitational status. The three organizations responsible for golf’s other major championships — the PGA of America, R&A and USGA — have not yet made final decisions about player eligibility for 2023, but would seem to face bigger logistical and legal hurdles than the Masters in withholding LIV competitors from play.

One issue that still stands in the way for LIV players, however, is World Ranking points. LIV has continued to wait on its application for accreditation, and those points are crucial for its golfers to improve their world rank and earn invites to golf’s major championships.

The 2023 Masters is April 6-9, 2023, in Augusta, Ga.

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