BOSTON, Mass – If there’s one golf tournament that doesn’t need hype it’s the Masters, but the 87th edition scheduled at Augusta National Golf Club April 6-9, 2023 is in a class by itself! Is there such a thing as uber-hype?
With a tradition unlike any other, golfers, sports fans and even those with zero interest in the game will turn their focus to Augusta, Georgia the first full weekend in April, to watch the world’s finest players play golf on one of sports grandest stage.
With the announcement this week from organizers at Augusta National that LIV golfers will be eligible to compete for the treasured ‘Green Jacket’, you will want to save the date. The first of the four major championships in 2023 is the Masters and it is guaranteed to start the major season with a bang.
Why is the 2023 Masters a big deal?
First, the Masters is the highest rated televised golf tournament year-in-and-year-out, surpassing all others with ease.
Second, over the past 10 months professional golf has been involved in a civil war, with multiple occasions of not-so-civil behavior by respected organizations like the PGA Tour, PGA of America and Royal & Ancient. With LIV Golf emerging as the dominant new world tour, seems honor and good sportsmanship has been tossed aside, especially showcasing the ugly, caustic side of the mainstream golf media.
A few months ago, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers tore into LIV Golf League but admitted that banning players from the 2023 Open Championship isn’t in the cards. Now Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National, has confirmed that LIV Golf players will be allowed to play in next year’s Masters, so long as they meet qualifying criteria.
This announcement sets the stage for the 2023 Masters being the most anticipated golf event in the storied history of the game. If you thought the Masters delivered drama in the past, then just wait to see what happens starting April 6. The conversation leading up to April won’t be any less controversial.
“From its inception in 1934, the purpose of the Masters Tournament has been to benefit the game of golf,” says Ridley. “Each April, the Masters assembles the world’s leading golfers to compete for the Green Jacket and a place in history. It provides a stage for fans to experience dramatic moments of competition at the highest level and promotes the sport domestically and abroad.”
“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. Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honour the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming April.”
The 88-player field will include current Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, previous Masters winners Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed. At this time a total of 16 LIV golfers are eligible to take the midnight train to Georgia to compete in the 2023 Masters.
This spectacular showcase is over 90 days away and truly what dreams are made of for golfers, and sports fanatics. Golf fans, including me, are already dripping with anticipation. Will LIV golfers dominate? Who will make the cut? What’s going on in the locker room? Who is really the No. 1 player in the world? Who will go low on the back nine on Sunday? The expectations and scenarios are incalculable.
This will be the first tournament that LIV golfers will compete with such stars as current Masters title-holder Scottie Scheffler, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith and Matt Fitzpatrick, all staunch supporters of the PGA Tour and vocal critics of LIV Golf. Will the drama on the course add to more crossfire off the course?
Ridley’s statement signals another moment of tension for the PGA, which has barred all LIV golfers from the PGA Tour indefinitely. The announcement comes with caveats that indicate a potential rule change for future Masters tournaments. Augusta National’s Chairman continued: “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.”
“A tradition unlike any other” – truer words were never spoken! I can’t wait!