Augusta National Golf Club announced Tuesday that any golfer who qualified for the Masters tournament based on its previous criteria will be invited to play in 2023, including 16 players who are currently competing in the LIV Golf League.
“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,” Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley said in a 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. As we have said in the past, we look at every aspect of the Tournament each year, and any modifications or changes to invitation criteria for future Tournaments will be announced in April. We have reached a seminal point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through 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.
Australia’s Cameron Smith, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, qualifies for winning the 2022 Open Championship and the Players. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka were invited because they have won the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship in the past five years. Joaquin Niemann and Talor Gooch are in the field after qualifying for the season-ending Tour Championship before leaving for LIV Golf and for being ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Abraham Ancer, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen are also in the top 50 of the OWGR and were invited. Also, any other player in the top 50 the week before the 2023 event would also earn an invitation.
Whether Augusta National would change its criteria to make it more difficult for LIV golfers to compete in the Masters has been one of the game’s pressing questions during the monthslong battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour for the world’s best players.
LIV Golf, which is being fronted by two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman and financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has lured away many of the tour’s most recognizable players with guaranteed signing bonuses reportedly worth as much as $200 million, as well as the richest purses in the sport’s history.
When Mickelson, DeChambeau and nine other LIV golfers filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Aug. 3, the plaintiffs suggested the tour was colluding with the four major championships to ban LIV golfers from competing in the sport’s most important events. In the lawsuit, LIV golfers’ lawyers accused Ridley of working behind the scenes for the PGA Tour.
The complaint said Augusta National representatives “threatened to disinvite players from The Masters if they joined LIV Golf.” It alleged that Ridley “personally instructed” players in this year’s tournament not to defect to LIV Golf and that he refused to sit down with Norman to discuss the new circuit’s business model.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, didn’t compete in this year’s tournament after he was heavily criticized for his comments about the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” and the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s history of human rights violations. At the Masters, Ridley said Mickelson hadn’t been disinvited to play.