In a blow to the men’s professional golf establishment –PGA Tour and DP World (European) Tour – Augusta National Golf Club has invited eligible members of the breakaway LIV Golf circuit to the Masters that will be played from April 6 to 9 next year.
ANGC chairman Fred S. Ridley on Tuesday said in a statement that it was regrettable that recent actions had diminished the men’s game but it was the club’s focus to bring back a “pre-eminent field of golfers” in 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,” the statement added.
This effectively means that besides the six past Masters champions in the LIBV ranks – Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel– as many as 10 others will be in the Masters field at Augusta National this spring.
The others are led by 2022 player of the year Cameron Smith and include Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen and Harold Varner III.
How the other ‘majors’ – the PGA Championship, The Open and the US Open – react remains to be seen but this is a clear signal from one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar that it will not be swayed by the internecine warfare between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, but chart its own course.
So far, there has been no reaction from the organisers of the other majors with respect to their 2023 events but there was also a hint in Ridley’s statement that Augusta National evaluated “every aspect of the tournament each year, and any modifications or changes to invitation criteria for future tournaments will be announced in April”, could become a guideline for them.
In essence, what the ANGC has offered is a short-term answer. In the longer run all the four majors could well need to revert to Tour performance and cut-off lines in the Official World Golf Rankings, which has so far followed the establishment line in keeping LIV golfers out of their ratings ambit.
There has been talk that the PGA Tour has had informal discussions to bar those on the LIV Golf roster and a case filed by nine of them had accused Ridley of working behind the scenes to wean golfers away from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund-supported circuit that is fronted by Australian golf legend Greg Norman.
In the event, at least for now, some of the heat has been taken out of the situation though both LIV Golf and the established tours are pressing ahead with widening their outreach for 2023. While Norman’s league has announced new venues and new events, the PGA and DP World tours have been signing up feeder agreements with their contemporaries in Korea and India besides opening doors for collegiate and junior talent besides stumping up more cash for its members as well.
And as events suggest, this is a story with more twists and turns still to come.
Copyright©2023 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today