LIV Golf players eligible for 2023 Masters, Augusta National chairman ‘honouring tradition’ of having strongest field
- Organisers will open doors to members rebel circuit despite them being banned by PGA Tour
- Move will allow likes of Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia to play in first major of the year
Augusta National will open their doors to LIV Golf’s biggest names, confirming that players from the breakaway tour will be eligible to compete in the 2023 Masters if they meet the established qualifying criteria.
The decision will be viewed as a major victory for the Saudi-backed series with the PGA Tour having suspended players jumping across to the rebel circuit.
LIV Golf has lured away some of the US-based PGA Tour’s top players with huge sums of money, leading to a simmering feud within the sport.
“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,” Fred Ridley, the Augusta National Golf Club chairman, said in a statement.
“Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honour the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming 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.”
Under current criteria, LIV’s marquee names, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel can all play between April 6 and 9 at Augusta National, qualifying for the year’s first major as past Masters champions which comes with a lifetime exemption.
Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, former US Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka and former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau will also receive invitations with winners of the three other majors earning five-year Masters exemptions.
The Masters criteria also includes the top 50 in the official world golf rankings (OWGR) at the end of 2022, which currently includes LIV defectors Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen.
Ridley lamented the divisions within the sport and did not rule out amending the club’s qualifying criteria in the future.
The Open Championship has indicated LIV golfers who meet qualifying standards will be welcome while the US Open and the PGA Championship have not yet confirmed their entry criteria.
“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,” Ridley said.