Augusta National Golf Club will invite all LIV Golf players who qualify for the 2023 Masters to compete in the first men's major of the year.
In a statement, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, who has been referenced in court filings as an opponent of the Saudi-backed golf league, said the club would welcome LIV Golf players that meet at least one of the Masters Tournament invitation criteria for the April 2023 event.
"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," the statement reads in part. "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."
With that statement, Ridley kept the door open for the Masters to once again revise its invitation criteria -- with the potential to lock out LIV Golf players. For example, for a brief period, winning a PGA Tour event offering full FedEx Cup points did not garner a Masters invite. That was restored.
As the Masters Tournament is an invitational tournament managed by Augusta National Golf Club, Ridley and the tournament committee are not required to invite any player to the event, regardless of invitation criteria.
LIV Golf players met various invitation criteria. Past Masters champions have what amounts to a lifetime exemption into the tournament, though the tournament can ask players to stop competing. Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed have previously won the Masters.
Winners of the other three men's majors in the last five years are also typically invited. Cam Smith, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka qualify under this category.
Mito Pereira earns an invite based on his finish inside the top four of the 2022 PGA Championship, as those who finish in the top four of the other three majors in the prior year are invited to each major.
Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III all qualify by finishing in the top 50 of the final Official World Golf Ranking of 2022.
The changes to the Official World Golf Ranking, implemented in August, have allowed several LIV Golf players to remain in the year-end top 50 that would not have otherwise held on. Though LIV Golf players do not earn OWGR points for their finish in LIV Golf events, the volume of points allocated per tournament has largely diminished since August, and the distribution of those points have not seen a rapid shuffling of the ranking.
The world rankings for some of the LIV golfers at the end of 2022 in the two #OWGR systems. Almost every LIV player did much better in the new system then they would've done in the old one. Only Patrick Reed who had that T5 finish at Wentworth managed to buck that trend... pic.twitter.com/SO2zourlQa
— Nosferatu (@VC606) December 22, 2022
Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen would have all fallen out of the world top 50 under the prior OWGR points distribution system.
From its inception in 1934, the purpose of the Masters Tournament has been to benefit the game of golf. Each April, the Masters assembles the world’s leading golfers to compete for the Green Jacket and a place in history. It provides a stage for fans to experience dramatic moments of competition at the highest level and promotes the sport domestically and abroad.
Through the years, legends of the game have competed and won at Augusta National Golf Club. Champions like Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have become heroes to golfers of all ages. They have inspired some to follow in their footsteps and so many others to play and enjoy the game. They have supported the sport and, thus, all who benefit from it. They have shown respect for those who came before them and blazed a trail for future generations. Golf is better because of them.
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.