Masters allows LIV Golf players to enter 2023 tournament

By Sports Desk December 20, 2022

LIV Golf players will be able to play in the 2023 Masters provided they meet the tournament's existing entry criteria.

Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel joined the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway LIV Golf series this year, but will be eligible to compete at Augusta next April due to being former Masters champions.

Cameron Smith has been invited to play due to his Open triumph this year, while Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka can also tee off in Georgia as a result of their major successes.

Augusta National Golf Club Fred Ridley said in a statement: "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, our focus is to honour 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 eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament.

"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."

Mickelson did not play in the Masters this year as he took time out from the sport after coming in for huge criticism over comments he made about Saudi Arabia's human rights record before joining LIV Golf.

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    Northern Irishman McIlroy is among eight players tied for sixth place, alongside Ireland’s Shane Lowry and England’s David Skinns, after hitting six birdies and two bogeys on Friday.

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    “I think I did a good job of staying patient until the end and that patience was rewarded.”

    Lowry has also posted consecutive scores of 67, while world number 278 Skinns, who is without a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, posted a two-under-par 69 following his opening-day 65.

    Bud Cauley leads the way on 11 under par, with fellow American Austin Eckroat and South Africa’s Garrick Higgo each one shot behind.

    The last time Cauley was in the top five after any round was at the 2020 PGA Championship.

    Belgium’s Thomas Detry is in last position – 11 over par – after he six-putted the 461-yard par-four sixth hole from 57 feet, despite knocking his first effort to eight feet.

    The 31-year-old finished with a quadruple bogey and the most putts on one hole on the PGA Tour in four years.

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    A bogey on the 17th was the only blemish on McIlroy’s card as he finished three strokes off the pace on a day of favourable conditions at PGA National.

    American Chad Ramey and South Korea’s SH Kim shared the opening-day lead with seven-under-par 64s – one clear of a group which included England’s David Skinns.

    “It was so benign,” said McIlroy. “You’re not going to get this course much easier.”

    Skinns, the world number 278 and without a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, had a putt on his last hole for a seventh birdie and a share of the lead.

    Ireland’s Shane Lowry was alongside McIlroy on four-under-par, part of a large group which also includes Sweden’s Alex Noren and France’s Victor Perez – the best placed of the final two groups who were unable to complete the final hole due to darkness.

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    McIlroy took a strident position against the big-money Saudi venture, which tempted a host of top names with lavish paydays and disrupted the established order of the PGA and European Tours.

    But the world number two – who even claimed last summer that he would “rather retire” than become a LIV rebel – has softened his stance in recent months as Europe Ryder Cup team-mates Jon Rahm and Tyrell Hatton have made the switch from the PGA Tour.

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    “Never know. He might know a few things. Who knows?”

    McIlroy began his 2024 campaign by finishing second to Tommy Fleetwood at the Dubai Invitational and then winning the Dubai Desert Classic for a record fourth time.

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    McIlroy finished tied 66th at the rain-ruined AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and had a share for 24th at the Genesis Invitational.

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    “I won the pro-am portion, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

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