Some of the best players in world golf will return to Augusta National for the Masters in 2023 after tournament officials confirmed that LIV Golf members will be allowed to play. The rebels, who include former Masters champions, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson, have been largely black-balled from golf’s majors ever since the Saudi-financed tour launched earlier this year.
But the Masters falls outside the control of the PGA TOUR, who have been at loggerheads with LIV Golf since their formation, and now tournament have revealed that, somewhat grudgingly, they will welcome the rebels back into the fold if they meet qualifying criteria.
Fred Ridley, the chairman of the Masters, admitted his belief that LIV Golf converts had ‘diminished the virtues of the game’, but confirmed that those eligible would still be allowed to compete for the famous green jacket at Augusta National. Ridley states,
We will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete.
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….
Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honour the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers.
The 2023 edition of the Masters will be the 87th hosting of arguably golf’s most prestigious tournament, and with the invitation of LIV Golf qualifiers will ensure the event doesn’t have an asterisk next to it in the history books.
It means that they will be able to play in three of the four majors next year. The USGA, who oversee the US Open, welcomed LIV Golf members to the tournament in 2022, although their chief – Mike Whan – has not ruled out banning them in the future pending the result of a highly-publicised court battle scheduled for next year.
Chief executive of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, has said that while LIV players won’t be banned from the Open Championship, possible changes to the entry criteria could see them miss out anyway.
The Problem Child
It’s been confirmed that LIV Golf will return in 2023 – despite the fact that they have no TV deal and little in the way of commercial interest. But with a squadron of elite players, including world number two, Cameron Smith, and major champions, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, interest in LIV Golf isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
LIV members will play a 14-event schedule, comprising of 54-hole, three-day tournaments, for a total prize fund of £336 million in 2023. They will be looking to usurp Johnson, who was crowned top player last season and walked away with a handy £29.3 million in prize money.
But for all the riches on offer, LIV Golf is still unrecognised by the sport’s key governing bodies, and that means that their players are not earning world ranking points for their efforts. Eventually, that could see them fail to qualify for the majors anyway – regardless of what tournament organisers think of the players.