Masters 2023: Cameron Smith and his fellow LIV players welcome

Even though Greg Norman’s LIV Golf league has “divided” the sport, 17 members of the breakaway tour, including Australia’s Cameron Smith, have been invited to play the 2023 Masters.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley confirmed the iconic event would keep “current criteria” for 2023 entrants, meaning Smith and former Masters champions Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, who have joined LIV Golf, can play.

But Smith was one of just three Australians currently qualified – including 2013 champion Adam Scott and amateur Harrison Crowe – half the contingent who played in 2022.

Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee and Cameron Davis, who all made their Masters debut in April, would need to win their way to Augusta before the entrance cut-off in March.

Smith, who has recorded three straight top-10 Masters finishes, and was third this year, was given the green light via a statement released by Augusta National in which Ridley, who didn’t mention the Saudi-backed series by name, said he was “disappointed” with how developments had created an ongoing divide, calling it a “seminal point” in golf’s history.

But the Masters wants to gather the best field and so invitations have been sent to eligible LIV players.

“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,” Ridley said.

“Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honour the tradition of bringing together a pre-eminent 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.

“We have reached a seminal point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through the years, will endure again.”

The move comes after the Royal and Ancient, which runs the Open Championship, allowed LIV golfers to play in 2022, with Smith winning his breakthrough major before he joined Norman’s tour for a reported $140m.

Of 78 players who have qualified for the 2023 Masters, 16 are LIV Golf members, including six former Masters champions – Johnson, Reed, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson plus Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South African Charl Schwartzel.

Bryson DeChambeau, who also qualifies, told the Golf Channel that Masters officials had made the “right decision”.

“As long as you meet the criteria established by the tournament committee, you should be eligible to play,“ the 2020 US Open champ said.

”I believe they made the right decision. This Masters will be one of the most exciting Masters in many years.”

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