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With no clear end to the current division in men’s professional golf, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley has issued an update on LIV golfers’ eligibility for future editions of The Masters.

No fewer than 13 players aligned to the Saudi-funded golf league are in the field this week – seven of them former champions.

Despite that, there has been considerable gnashing of teeth in some quarters that other LIV golfers – notably Talor Gooch – are not amongst the 89 players taking part, with concerns raised about future participation rates as the circuit continues remain ineligible for world ranking points.

Speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow’s opening round of the 88th Masters, Ridley made the club’s position quite clear.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about that, and presently we do use the Official World Golf Rankings,” he said. “As you know, we’re on the board of the OWGR. We believe that it is a legitimate determiner of who the best players in the game are.

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“There’s been communication that’s been public regarding LIV’s application, which subsequently was withdrawn after some remedial suggestions were made regarding pathways and access to players and concern about some of the aspects of team golf.

“But I think in our case, we’re an invitational, and we can adjust as necessary.”

Ridley illustrated his point using the example of current LIV golfer Joaquin Niemann being granted a special invitation to join this year’s tournament.

“We felt that Joaquin had not only a great record coming up to this year, but after his season, he went to Australia, played very well there, finished fourth in the Australian PGA, won the Australian Open, one of the great, great championships in the world. We thought he was deserving of a special invitation.

“Historically, and as stated in our qualification criteria, we consider international players for special invitations. But we do look at those every year and if we felt that there was a player or players, whether they played on the LIV tour or any other tour, who were deserving of an invitation to The Masters, we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations.”

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Ridley also poured cold water on the suggestion of introducing a separate exemption category, allowing LIV players to qualify for The Masters via their own Order of Merit system.

“I think it would be difficult to establish any type of point system that has any connection to the rest of the world of golf because they’re basically, not totally, but for the most part, a closed shop.

“There is some relegation, but not very much. It all really depends on what new player they sign.

“But I don’t think that that prevents us from giving subjective consideration based on talent, based on performance to those players.

“Our goal is to have, to the greatest extent possible, the best field in golf, the best players in the world. Having said that, we never have had all the best players in the world because of the structure of our tournament. It’s an invitational. It’s limited field, it’s a small field. So we’re in a little bit a different situation.”

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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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