A Chile greeting

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Invitations to this year’s Masters have been issued to three non-Americans who previously had not met the normal qualifying criteria.
Posted on
February 28, 2024
by
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I know, I know, the Masters does not get underway until April 11, which is basically six whole weeks away. So if you want to, you can blame Fred Ridley for this blog. In the middle of last week, the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club announced that invitations to this year’s tournament had been issued to three non-American players who hitherto had not met the normal qualifying criteria - Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen, Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann. “The Masters Tournament has a long-standing tradition of inviting leading international players who are not otherwise qualified,” said Ridley.

The Times announced the news under the headline: ‘Is Niemann’s Masters invite an olive branch to LIV Golf?’ I think not. The club’s press release noted that Niemann “is set to appear in his fifth Masters…[and] he has top-five finishes in each of his three DP World Tour starts this season, including winning the Australian Open in a playoff last December”. There was no mention of his win in LIV Golf’s season-opener in Mexico at the beginning of February. (The third LIV event of 2024 will conclude in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.)

Niemann will not be the lone LIV guy in attendance, of course. Far from it. Past Masters champions like Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson will be there. So will recent winners of other major championships, like Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith. Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk get in because they were in the top-50 on the world rankings at the cut-off point. Niemann was not, and as even Martians probably know by now, LIV tournaments do not carry world-ranking points. There has been no such leniency for the American tour pro, Talor Gooch, who won the LIV Order or Merit last year but will not be teeing it up at Augusta unless there is some extraordinary volte-face on the part of someone.

Another former Masters champion, Tiger Woods (five times), seems not to see that happening, at least not any time soon. Before his all-too-brief appearance at the Genesis Invitational a couple of weeks ago, Woods said: “Ultimately we would like to have PIF [the backers of LIV Golf] be a part of our Tour and a part of our product [but] financially we don’t need that right now” – this being on account of the fact that the PGA Tour recently concluded an investment deal with the Strategic Sports Group (SSG) apparently worth $3 billion. But is that a short-sighted attitude?

One person who might seem to think so is arguably the most famous contemporary non-Masters champion: Rory McIlroy. He has repeatedly said he thinks a deal with LIV is critical so that the tour wars come to an end. “I don’t think we need to blow everything up but there’s definitely some tweaks needed,” he said recently. “I think you would just create a tour for the top-80 players in the world and then everything feeds into that one.

That is a very much easier sentence to say than bring to fruition. I think the word ‘just’ is doing a lot of heavy-lifting there.

 

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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