By August Wherry
With calendars flipping to April this weekend, the golf world is buzzing on the greatest event in the sport: the Masters Tournament. But the hype around the tournament this year differs from any years before as this will be the first event (and a Major, nonetheless) that the defective LIV Golf players will attend and compete against their former PGA Tour peers. And the new, Saudi-backed tour that has shaken the golf world in the last 18 months has everything to gain from this.
Since the rival Tour started late last summer, questions were immediately asked of the four Major tournament organizations if the players on this new tour would be allowed to participate in their tournaments. And with LIV Golf’s tour being unprecedented, qualification requirements have yet to be defined, contributing to the mystery. But on December 19th, 2022, Augusta National was the first Major to announce the inclusion of LIV’s players who had qualified prior to separating from the PGA Tour (prior champions, top-50 in the World Golf Rankings, Major champion within the last 5 years, etc.). While controversial to many PGA Tour stalwarts, the decision is the right one, as the four Major organizations (ANGC, PGA, USGA and the R&A) are independent from the PGA Tour, and thereby must act in their own self-interest and in a manner that protects the future of the game.
The Majors limiting their field to just PGA-Tour and DP World Tour players would not only be partisan but would potentially shield the golf community from what could be the most controversial win in the history of the game with a LIV player win. The LIV Tour is undeniably less competitive, less serious and less of a test of true golf (among other things that are better saved for a different article) when compared to the established word tours, which is a significant reason many of the top players have decided to remain on the PGA Tour. But what is to happen if the LIV players arrive to ANGC next Monday and find themselves in contention, and even win, on Sunday? Not only will that give the LIV Tour the credit it has been so desperate to try and prove (and buy) to the community, but the LIV players will have shown to the top players in the world that accepting the ludicrous amount of signing money, playing a more relaxed version of golf and dissociating from the current (and admittedly antiquated) format of professional golf can still yield the most coveted prize in game: the Green Jacket.
So as Masters week approaches and the tournament progresses, take note of the LIV players in the field (they will not be hard to spot, I assure you) and pay especially close attention to cut line as Friday evening approaches, because making the weekend at the Masters means their skills are still sharp enough to compete against the best players and, more importantly, means there is an opportunity for them to win the tournament. Among astronomically high bonus incentives from their new tour, a win at the Masters will pseudo-acquit these players from the scrutiny they have received since leaving and prove that the LIV Tour is here to stay – and the PGA Tour and its top players will be fighting hard to prevent that from happening.