Augusta National Golf Club announced Tuesday that any golfer will be invited to play in 2023, including the 16 players who qualified for the tournament under the previous criteria.
The past six Masters champions who defected from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf are part of the group: Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charles Schwartzle.
“Unfortunately, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacy it has built,” Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement. “While we are saddened by these developments, our focus is on celebrating the tradition of bringing together outstanding golfers this coming April.
“So when invitations are sent out this week, we will invite those who qualify based on our current criteria to participate in the 2023 Masters tournament. As we have said in the past, we will look at every aspect of the tournament and any improvements or modifications. Changes to future invitation criteria will be announced in April. We have reached a milestone in the history of our sport at Augusta National in years. We have faith that golf will be strong again after going through many challenges.
The first major championship of the season, the Masters, is scheduled for April 6-9 in Augusta, Georgia.
World No. 3 Cameron Smith of Australia has qualified for the 2022 Open Championship and the Players Championship. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka have been invited by winning the US Open or PGA Championship in the past five years. Before heading to LIV Golf, Joaquin Niemann and Talor Gooch are in the field having qualified for the season-ending Tour Championship and are ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Abraham Anser, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen are in the OWGR Top 50 and have been invited. Also, any other player in the week prior to the 2023 event will receive an invite.
Whether or not Augusta National will change the rules to make it harder for LIV golfers to compete in the Masters has been one of the game’s most pressing questions in the months-long battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour for the world’s best players.
Fronted by two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf offers tour-famous players up to $200 million in guaranteed signing bonuses and more. Richest purses in the history of the sport.
When Mickelson, DeChambeau and other LIV golfers filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Aug. 3, the plaintiffs said the tour’s collusion with the four major championships prevented LIV golfers from competing in the sport’s most important events. Attorneys for LIV golfers accused Ridley of working behind the scenes for the PGA Tour in the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges that Augusta National representatives “threatened to disinvite players from The Masters if they joined LIV Golf.” Ridley said he “personally instructed” players not to defect to LIV Golf this season and declined to sit down with Norman to discuss the new circuit’s business model.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, withdrew from the tournament after coming under fire for his comments about the PGA Tour’s “disgusting greed” and the Saudi monarchy’s record of human rights abuses. At the Masters, Ridley said Mickelson was not invited to play.