The Augusta National Golf Club announced Tuesday that every golfer who qualified for the Masters tournament based on their previous criteria will be invited to play in 2023, including 16 players currently competing in the LIV Golf League.
Six former Masters champions are part of the group that defected from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf: Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwarzel.
“Regrettably, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the significant legacies of those who built it,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement. “While we are disappointed by these developments, our focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together an outstanding field of golfers this coming April.
“As such, when invitations are sent out this week, we will be inviting those who are eligible under our current criteria to enter the 2023 Masters tournament. As we have said in the past, we review every aspect of the tournament each year and any changes or changes to the invitation criteria for future tournaments will be announced in April. We have reached a pivotal point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has met many challenges over the years, will endure again.”
The Masters, the first major championship of the season, is scheduled to be played April 6-9 in Augusta, Georgia.
World No. 3 Australian Cameron Smith qualifies to win the 2022 Open Championship and Players. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka were invited because they have won the US Open or the PGA Championship in the last five years. Joaquin Niemann and Talor Gooch are in the field after qualifying for the season-ending Tour Championship before joining LIV Golf and entering the top 50 on the Official Golf World Rankings.
Abraham Ancer, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen are also among the OWGR Top 50 and have been invited. Additionally, every other player in the top 50 in the week leading up to the 2023 event would also receive an invite.
Whether Augusta National would change its criteria to make it more difficult for LIV golfers to compete in the Masters was one of the game’s most pressing questions during the month-long battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour for the world’s best players.
Led by two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf has lured many of the tour’s most prominent players with guaranteed signing bonuses reportedly worth up to $200 million from the richest purses in the history of the sport.
When Mickelson, DeChambeau and nine other LIV golfers filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Aug. 3, plaintiffs suggested that the tour colluded with the four major championships to allow LIV golfers to attend the sport’s major events to forbid. In the lawsuit, attorneys for LIV golfers accused Ridley of working behind the scenes for the PGA Tour.
The complaint said Augusta National officials had “threatened to disinvite players from The Masters if they join LIV Golf.” It has been claimed that Ridley “personally advised” players at this year’s tournament not to move to LIV Golf and that he has refused to sit down with Norman to discuss the new circuit’s business model.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, did not compete in this year’s tournament after being heavily criticized for his comments about the PGA Tour’s “intolerable greed” and the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s history of human rights abuses. At the Masters, Ridley said Mickelson was not disinvited to play.