The Masters have broken with tradition and allowed the rebel LIV golfers to take part in the opening Major of the season. Augusta National will play host to the 87th Masters once again in April 2023, but it was widely expected that the LIV players would be suspended. However, it seems that the Masters organizers have made it their mission to bring together a formidable field featuring the world’s best golfers.
Caving under pressure
Previously, the players that defected to the LIV Tour, which included Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, were barred indefinitely from the PGA Tour. Back in July, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers had suggested it wasn’t on the “agenda” to stop LIV players from participating at next year’s Open, however, it seemed that the PGA Tour had taken a clear stance on the matter.
But it seems that the Masters have crumbled under mounting pressure, and now 16 of the LIV contingent will be able to compete at Augusta, which includes reigning Open champion Cameron Smith.
Discussing the decision, Masters chairman Fred Riley said:
“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.
“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, the focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together a pre-eminent field of golfers this coming April.
Therefore, as invitations are sent this week, we will invite those who are eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament.”
Protecting the game
Although there have been many dissenting voices about the LIV Tour and the impact it has had on golf, there are some who think that the decision to allow rebel players to play at the Masters isn’t such a bad idea. Among those who have given their approval, is Dame Laura Davies, although she admits there is still a way to go before the Tours can successfully co-exist.
“Personally, I think it’s a good thing we’re going to see all the very best players in the world playing at Augusta in April.
“I think there’s a long way to go [before there is harmony between rivaling tours in the men’s game]. There are thoughts that if [LIV CEO] Greg Norman stepped aside it might make things a bit easier.
“There’s a lot of talking, but they have to start talking to the PGA Tour first and at the moment it doesn’t seem that’s going to happen for a while. Whether the Greg Norman factor is part of that, who knows?
“I just think it’s nice the majors can make a decision like this, whereas the Tour have to protect their sponsors, field strength, all things like that.”
While Norman won’t object to letting the LIV crop of players head off to the Masters, it seems that there isn’t only a temporary solution in place. A lot of water has passed under the bridge, but to outsiders, this might seem like a good starting point.