The Masters standards allow LIV golfers to play in ’23

Augusta National Golf Club announced Tuesday that any golfers who qualify for the Masters tournament based on their previous criteria will be invited to play in 2023, including 16 players currently competing in the LIV golf tournament.

Six former Masters champions are part of the group that defected from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf: Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel.

“Unfortunately, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the benefits of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it,” Augusta National Golf Club President Fred Ridley said in a statement. “While we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is on honoring the tradition of bringing together an outstanding field of golfers this coming April.

“So with invitations being sent out this week, we will be inviting those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters. As we have said in the past, we look at every aspect of the tournament every year, and any adjustments or changes to the invitation criteria for future tournaments will be announced in April. We have reached a key point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges over the years, will continue again.”

The Masters Tournament, the first major tournament of the season, is scheduled to take place April 6-9 in Augusta, Georgia.

Australian Cameron Smith, ranked No. 3 in the world, is set to win the 2022 Open and Players Championship. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are invited because they have won the US Open or PGA Championship in the past five years. Joaquin Niemann and Talor Gooch are in the field after qualifying for the final Tour Championship of the season before leaving for LIV Golf and for being ranked in the top 50 in the world golf rankings.

Abraham Unser, Harold Varner III, Jason Kukrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen are also among the OWGR Top 50 and have been invited. Also, any other player in the top 50 in the week leading up to the 2023 event will also receive an invite.

Whether Augusta National will change its criteria to make it more difficult for LIV golfers to compete in the Masters has been one of the game’s burning questions during the months-long battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour for the world’s best players.

Spearheaded by two-time Open Champion Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf has attracted many of the tour’s most iconic players with guaranteed signing bonuses said to be up to $200 million, as well as the richest purses in the history of the sport.

When Mickelson, Dechambeau and nine other LIV golfers filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Aug. 3, plaintiffs suggested the tour was colluding with the four major championships to prevent LIV golfers from competing in the sport’s most important events. In the lawsuit, attorneys for the LIV golfers accused Ridley of working behind the scenes on the PGA Tour.

The complaint said that representatives of Augusta National “threatened to deny players the Masters if they joined LifeGolf.” It alleged that Ridley “personally instructed” the players at this year’s tournament not to defect to LIV Golf and that he refused to sit down with Norman to discuss the business model of the new circuit.

Mickelson, the three-time Masters champion, did not take part in this year’s tournament after coming under fire for his comments about the “repugnant greed” of the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights abuses. At the Masters, Ridley said Mickelson was not denied a game.

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