With no change likely for Masters criteria, LIV players will have harder time making it to year’s first major

AP photo by Matt Slocum / A flag on the second hole at Augusta National Golf club waves in the breeze during the first round of the Masters in April 2023.

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Masters is unlikely to make any changes to its eligibility criteria for next year's tournament, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Thursday, which means fewer players from the LIV Golf League will be competing in the year's first major.

Only past Masters champions and recent major winner are eligible among current LIV players. The Masters invites winners of PGA Tour events and players in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, among other qualifying criteria.

The OWGR committee recently rejected LIV's application to award ranking points for its 48-man, 54-hole, cut-free events, citing a lack of opportunities for players to earn spots on the tour or be relegated for poor play.

"As you recall last year, there was some speculation as to whether or not we would invite LIV golfers, and we stayed true to our qualification criteria and we invited everyone who was eligible," Ridley said at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, host of this week's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship tournament.

"And so, while we do not at this time anticipate making any changes in 2024, you know, we do always look at them and we will continue to do that. I would just answer by saying that, you know, that our qualifications are very much dynamic, and we adjust to what we feel is the best interests of the tournament representing the best players in the world, so we always look at that."

There were 18 players from LIV in the Masters this past April. That number has already been cut in half for next year. LIV has six past Masters champions: Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson. LIV players Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith have won majors within the past five years.

No one else on the Saudi-funded tour is inside the top 50 in the world, including Talor Gooch, its 2023 season champion.

"You know, they made decisions based on what they thought was in the best interests of their golf careers, and we certainly respect that," Ridley said of those who signed on with LIV, which launched in 2022. "We do have in our invitation criteria, it does say that we reserve the right to invite special exemptions to international players, although we did issue a special exemption to an amateur last year. So we are always looking at that.

"But these decisions have been made, and we'll have to do what's in the best interests of the Masters and we'll continue to do that."