LIV Golf Defectors Just Received a Much-Needed Lifeline From the Masters
When many of the top golfers in the world ditched the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf, they all knew the ramifications that could’ve followed. Would they ever be able to compete on the PGA Tour again? Would the Official World Golf Ranking stop them from earning points? Could they be banned from major championships in the future? None of the defectors truly knew the answer to these questions, but they decided to join the Saudi-backed league anyway.
LIV Golf members learned the answer to the first two questions when the PGA Tour suspended all of them and the OWGR shut down their ability to earn points. The majors, though, are run by different entities, so they make their own rules. The Masters, which is run by Augusta National Golf Club itself, threw the defectors a lifeline this week by announcing LIV Golf participants will be allowed to play in the tournament if they meet the qualifications.
The Masters throws LIV Golf a lifeline
On Tuesday morning, Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley announced in a statement that all golfers who qualified for the 2023 Masters Tournament will be invited to play. That list includes 16 LIV Golf members, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Cameron Smith.
“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,” Ridley wrote in the statement. “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.”
Based on the current qualification criteria, here are the 16 LIV Golf members who will receive invitations to the 2023 Masters this week:
Past Masters champions
Past major championship winners
Top 50 in OWGR
Harold Varner III
This announcement may come as a surprise to some considering Augusta National previously attempted to stop the mass exodus to LIV Golf. But banning these players would deliver a massive blow to the 2023 Masters field, and Augusta National was never going to entertain that decision.
Can any LIV Golf players realistically win the 2023 Masters?
Although 16 LIV Golf members will be allowed to play in the Masters next year, that doesn’t mean all 16 have a chance to win. We can basically rule out Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Kevin Na, and Louis Oosthuizen based on age. Talor Gooch, Jason Kokrak, Abraham Ancer, and Harold Varner III have never shown the ability to win a major, so they’re probably out of the running, too.
But there are a few legitimate contenders coming from the LIV Golf pool, most notably Cameron Smith. The 2022 Open champion is a top-five player in the world when he’s on, and he’s currently the third-biggest favorite to win the 2023 Masters at +1300 (FanDuel).
Dustin Johnson, who won the Masters in 2020 and has played stellar golf on the rival tour, is the next LIV Golf member on the odds board at +2100. Then comes Brooks Koepka (+2900), Bryson DeChambeau (+3600), and Joaquin Niemann (+5000). I’ll throw Patrick Reed in there as a longshot because of how well he’s played at Augusta over the years.
So, yeah, LIV Golf will bring a handful of contenders to the 2023 Masters, and the golf world might explode if one of them wins the green jacket.