Australian Open hailed as a path to Augusta for LIV players

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Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley praised the Australian Open as one of the “great, great championships in the world” and a potential pathway for LIV players to the Masters after suggesting his tournament would continue to use the Official World Golf Rankings as a guide to invitations.

LIV star Joaquin Niemann earnt a Masters “special invitation” on the back of his win in Sydney last December having fallen from a career-high ranking of 15 to 92 since his move to the rival tour where he has won twice.

Noting that LIV withdrew its application to obtain world ranking points for its 54-hole, no- cut events after some “remedial suggestions” were made, Ridley, who sits on the board of the OWGR, said he believed it remained the “legitimate determiner” of the world’s best players.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about that, and presently we do use the Official World Golf Rankings. 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,” he said on Wednesday.

“There’s been communication that’s been public regarding, you know, the LIV’s application, which subsequently was withdrawn after some remedial suggestions were made regarding pathways and access to players and concern about some of the aspects of team golf.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

“I mean, a great example is this year Joaquin Niemann was given a special invitation. We felt that Joaquin had not only a great record coming up to this year, but after his season, you know, 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. And we thought he was deserving of a special invitation.

“Now, historically, and as stated in our qualification criteria, we consider international players for special invitations.

“But we do look at those every year and I will say that if we felt that there were a player or players, whether they played on the LIV tour or any other tour who were deserving of an invitation to the Masters, than we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations.”

Offering the invitation to Niemann could open the door for more LIV players to follow his path and play in Australia next summer.

There are 13 LIV players at the Masters this year, down from 18 in 2023, including seven former winners.

But only Adrian Meronk, who won the Australian Open in 2022, and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton qualified through the world rankings, with others, including Cameron Smith and Brooks Koepka, exempt as recent major winners and Niemann given his special invite.

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