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Masters 2023: Why wasn't Greg Norman invited this week? Fred Ridley explains the reason

April 05, 2023
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Icon Sportswire

AUGUSTA, Ga — First the 150th Open Championship, and now the 2023 Masters. Greg Norman is on a run of being asked to stay away from major championships.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, speaking in his annual Wednesday pre-tournament Masters press conference, distanced himself from the two-time Open champion who is now the commissioner of LIV Golf.

The Masters traditionally extends past major championship winners with honorary invitations to the tournament, even allowing them to play in the Par-3 Contest. Additionally, those who oversee various men’s professional golf tours from around the world are also welcomed to the event. Norman would seemingly qualify under both criteria, but the club decided to make an exception.

“We did not extend an invitation to Mr. Norman,” Ridley said. “The primary issue … I want the focus this week to be on the Masters competition, on the great players that are participating, the greatest players in the world, which, by our decision in December, we ensured that we were going to honor and be consistent with our invitation criteria.”

The decision Ridley references was when the club announced that LIV golfers, who are prohibited from playing in PGA Tour events, would be allowed to compete at Augusta National. Eighteen LIV golfers, including reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, and six past Masters champions including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, are set to tee it up on Thursday.

Ridley acknowledge that part of the club’s decision regarding Norman was the fact he hasn’t typically taking the Masters up on its invitations in the past.

“I would also add that, in the last ten years, Greg Norman has only been here twice,” Ridley said. “I believe one of those was as a commentator for Sirius Radio. It really was to keep the focus on the competition.”

Last July, Norman was also not invited by the R&A to a four-hole exhibition at the 150th Open at St. Andrews and a dinner for former Open champions. At the time, Norman called the decision “petty,” despite the governing body explaining it was to ensure the focus would be on the 150th edition of its championship.

This week, Norman used the same term in an interview with The Telegraph, noting that all he received a year ago to the Masters was a grounds pass. ”I’m disappointed because it’s so petty, but of course I’ll still be watching,” he said.

Norman’s league, which is controversially financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was one of several subjects Ridley discussed on Wednesday. Ridley was asked if his decision to allow LIV golfers in the field was contributing to the notion that Saudi Arabia was using LIV as a method of covering up the government’s poor human rights record through “sportswashing.” Ridley largely circumvented the sportswashing premise of the question, but allowed he didn’t necessarily agree with a host of PGA Tour stars leaving for LIV Golf.

“I know many of these players who are no longer on the PGA Tour,” he said. “Some of them I would consider friends. … I was expressing some disappointment that these players were taking the platform that had been given to them, that they rightly had earned success on, by the way, and moving to another opportunity, perhaps not thinking about who might come behind them.

“As it relates to [the] comment about sportswashing, I certainly have a general understanding of the term. I think it's for others to decide exactly what that means. These were personal decisions of these players, which I, you know, at a high level, don't necessarily agree with, but it really wasn't intended to go beyond that.”

The qualifying critera for the 2024 Masters was also revealed, and LIV golfers again will be allowed to compete so long as they earn an invitation through various categories, which including winning major champions in the last five years and being inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Rankings.

“[OWGR] is a really good way to invite players; it's an objective criteria based on data-driven analytics,” he said.

OWGR points, however, are not being offered in LIV Golf events, which has resulted in the league’s players almost universally sliding well down since joining LIV.

As for 20-time PGA Tour winner and former World No.1 Norman? Ridley did not slam the door.

“I’ve noticed the tone has been really good here this week,” he said. “Last night at the Champions Dinner, I would not have known that anything was going on in the world of professional golf other than the norm.

“[But if you are] asking will [Norman] ever be welcomed back? I would never say never.”

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