The Masters have ruled that rebels on the LIV golf circuit will be allowed to tee up in Augusta in April after opting against a ban.
In what will be viewed as a huge win for the Saudi-backed breakaway series, the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau will all be present among at least 15 LIV attendees at golf’s most famous tournament in April.
The decision comes amid an ongoing war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, after a series of top names defected to the new series earlier this year.
Phil Mickelson (left), who won the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010, will play again in 2023.
Masters organizers have opted against banning players who have defected to LIV Golf
In a statement released on Tuesday, Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley said: ‘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 honor the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming April.
Therefore, as invitations are sent this week, we will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament. 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.
‘We have reached a seminal point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through the years, will endure again.’
In short, at least 15 players currently competing on the LIV Golf circuit will be part of the field at Augusta National.
Previous Masters champions Mickelson, Johnson, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia of Spain, and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa are included in that group.
Cameron Smith of Australia will receive an invitation after winning the 2022 Open Championship, while DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are allowed to head to Augusta by virtue of winning the US Open in the past five years.
LIV Golf, fronted by Greg Norman (right), has created a divide right down the middle of golf
The Masters is among the most historic and storied sporting competitions in the world
At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through the years, will endure again
Masters chairman Fred Ridley
Joaquin Niemann of Chile has qualified for the event by virtue of being in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings prior to leaving the PGA Tour in September.
Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa reside in the top 50 in the current Official World Golf Ranking.
Ahead of The Masters’ decision, there was much uncertainty over whether the divide between golf was so strong that LIV rebels would be turned away from the majors in 2023.
The decision to allow them to compete is a huge boost for the likes of Smith – the LIV Golfer and current Open champion – who had previously spoken out about his desperation to keep playing in the four biggest tournaments of the year.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year, the world’s No. 3 said: ‘I think the majors really have to stand above all the politics.
Cameron Smith, who won the Open in 2022, has spoken about his desire to play the majors
Spaniard Sergio Garcia is another LIV golf defector who will be allowed to play at Augusta
‘If they really want the best product and the best players playing against each other in the world, they have to let us play. There’s no reason other than playing another tour that should suggest we shouldn’t play.
We’re definitely good enough players. We should have those spots.’
The Masters has become the second of the four major tournaments to announce its position on LIV golfers being able to compete, after The Open Championship confirmed it wouldn’t ‘ban anyone’ from playing at the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool.
That said, The Open have been unclear on what stipulations might exist in their eligibility criteria.
The Masters has now made its decision, leaving just the PGA Championship and US Open to decide its position.
Rory McIlroy, a vocal critic of the breakaway LIV Tour, celebrates after chipping out of a bunker on the 18th hole at Augusta National during last year’s Masters tournament
Tiger Woods is another PGA Tour pro that has been strong in his criticism of LIV Golf
Those four tournaments are separate from the main PGA Tour circuit, who have been extremely vocal in their criticism of the breakaway tour, with the pair in something of a sporting civil war since LIV’s conception.
Norman has been the polarizing head — acting as CEO and Commissioner — of the Saudi-backed circuit and has received barbs from Tour figureheads, not least Tiger Woods and McIlroy.
In one interview, he labeled McIlroy ‘brainwashed’ by the PGA Tour, which led to the Northern Irishman deciding to become a thorn in his rival’s side.
‘I thought, “You know what? I’m going to make it my business now to be as much of a pain in his a**e as possible,” McIlroy told the Irish Independent.