Seve and the past Masters precedent

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The R&A have made it plain that Smith will be very welcome to defend his crown at Hoylake in July
Posted on
December 4, 2022
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

We await with bated breath – OK, I exaggerate – to find out whether LIV golfers who in normal circumstances would be certain of receiving their invitations to play in the Masters next April will indeed be getting them. I am especially thinking of past champions like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, and the 2022 Open champion, Cameron Smith. The R&A have made it plain that Smith will be very welcome to defend his crown at Hoylake in July, and I would be confident that Augusta National would take a similar line. In fact, though, it would not be the first time a player (essentially) banned from the PGA Tour has teed it up in the Masters.

Seve and the past Masters precedent
(PA Photos/PA Wire)

With effect from the start of the 1986 season, Seve Ballesteros, at the time the winner of four major championships, was banned from the PGA Tour because in the previous season he had only played in nine tournaments rather than the specified minimum of 15, itself part of a rule change implemented to allow him to play on the PGA Tour. There was one exception, the USF&G Classic in New Orleans, where he was the defending champion, and the PGA Tour commissioner, Deane Beman, allowed him that appearance. Where he missed the cut! With the two rounds there and seven more in two other minor tournaments, Ballesteros arrived at Augusta with just nine competitive rounds all year. His game was seriously undercooked. Oh, and his father had died a month before.

You will surely know what happened. Ballesteros looked to have the green jacket in his hands on Sunday when he made an eagle on the 13th. He effectively gave it away on the next par-five, the 15th, when he hit an absolutely horrible shot into the pond. The grateful recipient was Jack Nicklaus, improbably winning a sixth Masters title at the age of 46.

It may not be instructive but it is interesting to follow why Ballesteros had set himself on a collision course with the PGA Tour. Playing the stipulated 15 tournaments in 1984 had led to a mediocre season in which he finished 52nd on the Money List. Playing just nine in 1985 had led to the win in New Orleans and meant he earned more money per event played than anyone else on the Tour, good for 26th on the Money List. Having served his ban in 1986, he was a non-member in 1987, eligible to receive sponsor’s invitations - a maximum of five - plus he could play the three majors held in America. From his eight appearances in the States he collected $305,000 (that level of prize-money sounds almost quaint by modern standards), which was again more money per event than anyone else had made. He placed 32nd on the Money List. I am not suggesting Jay Monahan has any thoughts of extending any sort of olive branch to Bryson DeChambeau & Co. I am saying that if he did it wouldn’t be a first.

As I am sure you will also know, Ballesteros, who died in 2011, won the Masters twice – in 1980 and 1983. Next year’s tournament will conclude on April 9. It would have been Seve’s 66th birthday.


You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog plus you can read more by him on golf at

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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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