Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and other LIV players will be able to compete for the green jacket this April despite bolting the PGA Tour for the Saudi-funded breakaway tour.
Chairman Fred Ridley made the announcement Tuesday saying The Masters — an invitation-only tournament — would stick with the same criteria as in previous years.
“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 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.”
Other former champions such as Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel also qualify. Notable golfers such as Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Joaquinn Niemann who also famously ditched the PGA Tour are eligible as well due to previous rules.
The consequences presented for the players jumping ship to join LIV were originally thought to be the end for some players competing in major championships.
“We have reached a seminal point in the history of our sport,” Ridley said. “At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through the years, will endure again.”
“Through the years, legends of the game have competed and won at Augusta National Golf Club,” said Ridley “Champions like Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have become heroes to golfers of all ages. They have inspired some to follow in their footsteps and so many others to play and enjoy the game. They have supported the sport and, thus, all who benefit from it. They have shown respect for those who came before them and blazed a trail for future generations. Golf is better because of them.”
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Players have received massive lump sums of money to join the Saudi-backed league where they play less golf at a quicker pace for big paydays, but without much meaning. This has caused a divide among the golf community and LIV CEO Greg Norman’s public lashing of the PGA Tour has only added to the divide.
The PGA Tour has suspended all players who picked the LIV Tour, but the major championships operate independently.
Mickelson, a three-time champ at Augusta, skipped last year’s Masters over the intense backlash he received after he brushed aside all human rights concerns about taking money from the Saudi backers of the LIV Tour.
“They’re scary motherf–kers to get involved with,” Mickelson said in a February interview with golf writer Alan Shipnuck. “[They] have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.”
So why do it? “Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Augusta National is the first domino to fall in allowing marquee players from LIV to compete in their major.
The U.S. Open is expected to rule on its criteria in February at the annual USGA meeting, per the Associated Press. The British Open will accept all who qualify. The PGA Championship has not yet announced what it will do.