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Swan Songs?

Masters 2023: 9 notable golfers who could be playing in their final Masters this week

April 06, 2023
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Andrew Redington

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There were tears shed at Tuesday's Champions Dinner—and not just from Scottie Scheffler's spicy tortilla soup. Augusta native Larry Mize was so choked up about playing in his final Masters that he could barely get through his speech. Sandy Lyle, who is also having a swan song at the event this week, did better getting the words out, but understandably, it's an emotional time for an athlete when they realize it's time to hang it up.

But as former Masters champs, at least Lyle and Mize were able to make that decision themselves. For most golfers, that's not the case. And if you haven't won a green jacket and want to keep coming back to Augusta National, you have to keep qualifying. And qualifying. And qualifying. Maybe you go into a slump. Maybe you get an injury. Maybe you miss one Masters. Maybe you miss another. And next thing you know, you're having to order that "Taste of the Masters" to your home like a regular patron, if you're craving a Georgia peach ice cream sandwich. Life comes at you quick. (See Fowler, Rickie.)

With that said, we can say with certainty that Larry Mize and Sandy Lyle won't be the only golfers teeing it up this week who will look back one day and realize the 2023 Masters was their final one. We just can't say for sure who those other golfers are. But with LIV Golf tournaments still not being awarded Official World Golf Ranking points—and the Masters only making a couple small tweaks to its qualifications for 2024—it's very possible that there are more such cases this year unless guys perform really well at majors or pull a Patrick Reed and start loading up on Asian Tour events.

Take Thomas Pieters, one of LIV's latest free-agent signings. The 31-year-old Belgian should have a couple decades left of playing in major championships, but with this OWGR situation, he realizes this (gulp) could be it. Despite the fact that he's less than half of Mize's age!

"I took my parents here because it could be my last one," Pieters told reporters on Tuesday. "That's just being realistic. I don't know. Time will tell. We'll see."

Yes, we will. It got us thinking about LIV guys like Pieters and a couple notable PGA Tour players who aren't guaranteed invites after this year. Obviously LIV green jacket members like Patrick Reed will always have a place at Augusta National, and recent major champs like Cameron Smith and Bryson DeChambeau are safe for another couple years. But here are some others whose Masters future is a bit more murky.

Louis Oosthuizen: The man with the runner-up career Grand Slam has fallen to 120th in the Official World Golf Ranking after ending 2022 in the top 50 to earn his invite this year. He also turned 40 and shot 76 on Thursday with this pad on his elbow:

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Patrick Smith

In other words, he's not getting any younger.

Kevin Na: At least Louis made it through his first round, though. Na walked off after only nine holes due to an illness. And he's another guy who won't sniff the top 50 in the OWGR again unless LIV gets World Ranking points real soon.

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Christian Petersen

Jason Kokrak: Like Na, another 30-something who is not a top-50 something anymore. You get the point.

Talor Gooch: Ditto.

Abraham Ancer: Now he's a 30-something who is still ranked 31st. But without any OWGR points, it's very doubtul he'll remain in the top 50 by the end of 2023. Again, you get the point.

Francesco Molinari: See? We told you this list wouldn't be all LIV guys. Molinari is in the final year of a five-year Masters exemption for winning the 2018 Open Championship. Despite winning at Bay Hill the following year and nearly winning a green jacket in 2019, he's now in a four-year winless drought and down to 130th in the world.

The Masters - Final Round

Andrew Redington

And if he had just held onto that two-shot lead on the back nine four years ago, he'd be coming back here for the rest of his life. What a cruel sport.

Harold Varner III: OK, back to the LIV guys. After finally qualifying for his first Masters in 2022, this could be it. However, and we probably should have mentioned this earlier, any of these guys can earn a trip back next year by finishing in the top 12 this week. And after an opening 72, hey, you never know.

Cameron Champ: And one final PGA Tour guy! You're probably saying, "What's this young stud doing on this list?!" And maybe we're crazy. BUT, despite the fact that Champ is only 27, and has three PGA Tour wins, and hits absolute lasers, he's only here this year because of that top-12 rule. Champ is currently the lowest-ranked golfer on this list at No. 201, and he's had back problems, and, well, again, you just never know.