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Masters’ decision to include LIV players is best for golf – The Hamden Journal

Masters’ decision to include LIV players is best for golf

The “MEMORANDUM’’ was sent out via mail Tuesday morning. It was from Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley and it didn’t exactly contain surprising, blockbuster news.

The crux of the announcement was that the 2023 Masters will not ban the players who’ve defected from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf from playing for the green jacket in April.

The tack Augusta National took was the correct one and the only one that makes sense for the game of golf.

It was also good news for golf fans, because there aren’t many who would rather watch the top players in the sport competing against each other in the courtroom rather than on the golf course.

The Masters is the most powerful force in major championship golf and it would be stunning if the PGA Championship and U.S. Open don’t follow suit (British Open organizers said in October they would allow LIV golfers in 2023).

Past champions are revered at the Masters. Having them back each year, mingling about the iconic property wearing their green jackets and partaking in the annual Tuesday night Champions Dinner is part of the fabric of every Masters.

Sixteen players who fled for LIV Golf and have been banned from playing PGA Tour events are invited to play the 2023 Masters based on its qualifying criteria, including six past Masters champions: Phil Mickelson (a three-time winner), Bubba Watson (a two-time winner), Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel.

Dustin Johnson, who now plays on the LIV Tour, celebrates his Masters win in 2020.

There was never a moment when those past champions were going to be uninvited from the drive down Magnolia Lane. Nor should there have been. None of the major championships need to take sides between LIV and the PGA Tour. Each is its own entity.

With the acrimonious divide created between the PGA Tour and LIV, the major championships are the last big-time golf tournaments at which fans can see the top players in the world compete against each other.

Whether or not you agree with the players’ decisions to flee for the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars, which LIV is paying some of them: Don’t you want to see the likes of Cam Smith, the No. 3 ranked player in the world, Brooks Koepka, a four-time major winner, Bryson DeChambeau and Johnson (to name a few) playing against Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas, who are among those who’ve staunchly aligned themselves with the PGA Tour?

Of course, you do.

And you’ll get to do that at the Masters, which will be played April 6-9. And you’ll likely get to do the same for the next three major championships as well.

Brooks Koepka
AFP via Getty Images

“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,’’ Ridley said in his statement.

That was a hint from Ridley that perhaps in the future, if the PGA Tour and LIV Golf cannot come to some sort of coexistence, the qualification process may become a moving target and be made more difficult for the LIV players to get into the Masters and the rest of the majors.

Ridley is firmly aligned with the PGA Tour, as are the governing bodies of the other three major championships. But he and the others have businesses to run.

In an exclusive interview with The Post in late July, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman revealed that he had reached out to Ridley in an effort to form an amicable relationship between LIV and the Masters. When asked how that conversation went, Norman said, “It didn’t go well.’’

Phil Mickelson will be back at the Masters again this year.
Getty Images

For now, though, everything at the Masters remains status quo.

And that’s a good thing for golf.