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LIV Golfers Eligible for 2023 Masters Tournament: 'Focus Is to Honor the Tradition'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2022

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 07: A detail view of the Augusta National Golf Club logo on a green jacket during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 07, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

LIV golfers who meet previous qualification standards for the Masters will be eligible for the year's first major tournament in 2023.

The event released a statement Tuesday explaining its position:

"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 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."

The ruling opens the door for a number of LIV Golf's most notable names to once again take center stage alongside PGA Tour golfers.

As ESPN noted, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel are all previous Masters champions who are eligible. Cameron Smith (2022 Open Championship), Bryson DeChambeau (2020 U.S. Open) and Brooks Koepka (2018 U.S. Open, 2018 and 2019 PGA) are all eligible because of past major victories.

What's more, Joaquin Niemann was in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, while Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen are in the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings, which would leave them eligible.

The tension between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf was the sport's defining storyline in 2022.

Between legal fighting and verbal quips from notable people such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Greg Norman, there doesn't seem to be much common ground between the competing golf leagues.

Yet this decision by the Masters opens the door for LIV golfers to play alongside some of the biggest names on the PGA Tour again. The PGA Tour previously stripped LIV golfers of their memberships and banned them from playing in PGA Tour events.

Mickelson's potential inclusion is perhaps the biggest development, as he was once one of the faces of the PGA Tour and is among the most accomplished players in Masters history.

He won the tournament in 2004, 2006 and 2010, and his jumping celebration after his first win—which was the first Grand Slam title of his career—remains an iconic moment in Masters lore.

This year's tournament will be played April 6-9, and how the LIV golfers perform amid the existing tension will surely be one of the biggest storylines.