Masters unlikely to ease entry for LIV golfers


LIV Golf League players who were hoping the major championships would change criteria to make it easier for them to qualify for those fields probably aren’t going to get their wish when it comes to the Masters.

Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley told reporters in Australia on Thursday that he didn’t anticipate the club making any changes to its criteria for the 2024 Masters, which will be played April 11-14.

“As you recall last year, there was some speculation as to whether or not we would invite LIV golfers, and we stayed true to our qualification criteria and we invited everyone who was eligible,” Ridley said ahead of this weekend’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

“And so, while we do not at this time anticipate making any changes in 2024, you know, we do always look at them and we will continue to do that. I would just answer by saying that, you know, that our qualifications are very much dynamic, and we adjust to what we feel is the best interests of the tournament representing the best players in the world, so we always look at that.”

This past April, there were 18 LIV Golf League players in the Masters field, including past champions Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson, who have lifetime exemptions to play in the first major of the season.

LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka and Mickelson tied for second at 8 under, 4 shots behind winner Jon Rahm.

Before last week’s LIV Golf League team championship, Mickelson said he hoped the four majors would create new pathways for the tour’s members to compete in the sport’s biggest tournaments.

Mickelson and other LIV Golf members have voiced their concerns after the Official World Golf Ranking notified the breakaway circuit that its governing board had voted unanimously not to recognize it for world ranking points.

“I think that the majors need to protect their product, and there’s probably other ways that they can do that by creating slots,” Mickelson said. “If they want to make sure they have the best fields in golf, they could create vehicles for players on LIV to play in majors where they don’t have to use the OWGR, which would undermine the TV contract and revenue of the PGA Tour if they gave points to LIV.”

Along with the past champions, Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Koepka are the only LIV Golf players currently eligible for the 2024 Masters field.

Talor Gooch, who won LIV Golf’s individual season-long points title and won three times this past season, is ranked No. 214 in the world because he isn’t receiving world-ranking points for LIV Golf events. As it stands now, Gooch isn’t eligible to play in any major in 2024.

“You know, they made decisions based on what they thought was in the best interests of their golf careers, and we certainly respect that,” Ridley said. “We do have in our invitation criteria, it does say that we reserve the right to invite special exemptions to international players, although we did issue a special exemption to an amateur last year. So we are always looking at that.

“But these decisions have been made and we’ll have to do what’s in the best interests of the Masters and we’ll continue to do that.”

The Masters announced in April that it would invite the NCAA individual champion and winners of events from the PGA Tour’s fall schedule that award a full allotment of points in 2024. It also tweaked the language of an exemption for PGA Tour members who qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship.

Meanwhile, R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said The Open was in the process of reviewing its exemptions for the 2024 tournament, which will take place at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland from July 18-21. The exemptions and criteria will be released early next year, he said.

Slumbers added that The Open would remain “open to everybody, but you earn your place in the field through exemptions, and that won’t change.”

“As I’ve stated a number of times, our conditions are designed in a way to create pathways for the very best players in the world to compete for the Open Championship next year at Royal Troon,” Slumbers said. “I would say, though, there has been some speculation in the media recently on the topic that you’re raising, and I would say that it is completely off the mark. I would like to make it very clear that exemptions for The Open, we do not discuss them with anyone, and nor would we at any point in time.”

Ridley also confirmed that LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam, a 10-time major championship winner, is a new member at Augusta National Golf Club. Women weren’t allowed to become members of the club until 2012.

“I am very excited about Annika,” Ridley said. “She is a delightful person. As you know, we have a number of women members and have for quite a few years. I think it made us a better club, and they are an integral part of our culture.”

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