Masters chief shifts blame as LIV Golf stars dealt blow on eve of tournament

While LIV Golf players had hoped for a path to the Masters Tournament in the future, Fred Ridley of Augusta National has downplayed the possibility of earning a breakaway circuit qualification spot.

The chairman of Augusta National, Fred Ridley, has downplayed the likelihood that LIV Golf will receive a path to the Masters due to the ongoing drama surrounding the breakaway league’s world ranking.

Due to their lack of Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) recognition, LIV will only have a small presence at this week’s Masters. The Saudi-backed circuit requested OWGR sanctioning in October of last year, but their application was denied; consequently, their events proceeded without ranking points being awarded.

The ranking system cited LIV’s 54-hole no-cut structure and constrained promotion and relegation system as justification for the choice; Ridley emphasized this point on Wednesday when talking about the possibility of an LIV qualification system.

“I believe it will be challenging to create a point system that is connected to the rest of the golf industry because the LIV setup is essentially—if not entirely, then certainly—a closed shop,” Ridley stated. “There is some, but not much, relegation.

“A lot really depends on the players they sign to join the team. The OWGR raised those concerns, but I don’t think that stops us from considering those players’ performances and talent in a subjective manner. Our objective is to have the world’s best golf players on the best field, as much as possible.

“Having said that, our tournament’s design has prevented us from ever having all of the world’s best players. It’s a formal invitation. It’s a small and restricted field.

Seven former champions—Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, and Charl Schwartzel—are among the 13 LIV stars competing this week. However, eight players from the previous year are no longer eligible to compete in the Masters because they don’t meet the requirements.

In other news, Cam Smith, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau—three major champions from the previous five years—as well as Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk, newcomers to the LIV, are in due to their world rankings. Joaquin Niemann, the leader of the breakaway league in 2024, is the exception.

Niemann ventured to the DP World Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia at the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 in an attempt to make it down Magnolia Lane this week, and he had some success. After winning the Australian Open, he moved up the rankings with two top-five finishes at the Australian PGA Championship and Dubai Desert Classic.

Although this did not allow him to break into the top-50, the Chilean’s form earned him a special invitation from Augusta bosses after he won at LIV Mayakoba in February. Even though Niemann is undoubtedly happy with his Masters spot, he has called for changes to the way professional golfers are ranked on various tours.

“At the moment, the game is divided, which is not beneficial. Creating a ranking system that makes everyone happy is difficult, he told the BBC. “I believe that [a unified system] is something that must and will eventually occur. I’m not sure when it will happen, but it might. I hope it takes place shortly. For some players, I believe the world ranking to be a lie.”

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