Augusta National says it won't ban LIV Golf players from 2023 Masters
Augusta National announced Tuesday that it will not ban LIV Golf members from the 2023 Masters tournament.
In a statement, Augusta National and Masters chairman Fred Ridley wrote that, “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.” However, while Ridley said he was “disappointed” in these developments, “our focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers.”
“Therefore, as invitations are sent this week, we will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament,” Ridley said. “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 news is not necessarily surprising, especially after the U.S. Open and Open Championship allowed LIV Golf members to compete in their events last summer. Conversely, there was some question if LIV members would be invited to Augusta next spring after the club was named in LIV Golf’s antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Specifically, that Augusta National and Ridley tried to persuade players from joining the Saudi-backed circuit.
“Augusta National, the promoter of the Masters, has taken multiple actions to indicate its alignment with the PGA Tour, thus seeding doubt among top professional golfers whether they would be banned from future Masters Tournaments,” the lawsuit alleges. “As an initial matter, the links between the PGA Tour and Augusta National run deep. The actions by Augusta National indicate that the PGA Tour has used these channels to pressure Augusta National to do its bidding. For example, in February, 2022 Augusta National representatives threatened to disinvite players from The Masters if they joined LIV Golf.” The complaint says that the PGA Tour urged Augusta National officials to attend a PGA Tour Advisory Council meeting in May, shortly after the formal launch of the LIV Golf Invitational Series. The suit says they did attend and “they informed the golfers in attendance that the PGA Tour and Augusta National had agreed to work together to address LIV Golf. As described above, the threat of exclusion from the Masters (and the other Majors) is a powerful weapon in the Tour’s arsenal to deter players from joining LIV Golf.”
Additionally, reports emerged in October that the Justice Department’s probe into the PGA Tour for possible antitrust violations has added Augusta National, the USGA and the PGA of America to the investigation.
Six current LIV Golf players have lifetime exemptions into the Masters as past champions: Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel and Phil Mickelson. Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will earn invites for winning majors in the past five years. Joaquin Niemann will be in the field for reaching the 2022 Tour Championship, while Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen get invites for being inside the Official World Golf Rankings’s top 50.
The 2023 Masters begins April 7. Scottie Scheffler is the defending champ.