If there’s one golf tournament that doesn’t need any hype it’s the Masters, but the 2023 edition, scheduled April 6-9 at Augusta National Golf Club, 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 focus on Augusta, Georgia during the first full weekend in April, to watch the world’s greatest golfers compete on its grandest stage.
With Augusta National’s announcement this week that LIV golfers will be eligible to compete for the iconic “Green Jacket,” the hype meter for the 87th playing of the Masters Tournament is officially off the charts.
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 ten 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 a legitimate threat to the golf world order, it 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 to be the most anticipated golf event in its storied history. If you thought the Masters Tournament delivered drama in the past, just wait to see what happens starting April 6. The conversation leading up to April won’t be any less controversial.
“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,” said Ridley in a released statement.
“Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honor 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.
Ridley continued: “From its inception in 1934, the purpose of the Masters Tournament has been to benefit the game of golf. 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.”
This spectacular showcase is over 90 days away and 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? Will Rory McIlroy tone down his whining? Who really is the No. 1 player in the world (Cam, DJ, Rory or Scottie)? The storylines are next level.
This will be the first tournament that LIV golfers will compete with such stars as current Masters title-holder Scottie Scheffler, world No. 1 McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas 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 added: “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!
On the web: The Masters