The NCAA Division I men’s individual golf champion will receive a Masters invitation starting in 2024, Augusta National Golf Club announced Wednesday.
That was among three changes to qualifying criteria for the invitational tournament.
Gordon Sargent, a Vanderbilt sophomore who won the 2022 men’s title, was invited to play in the Masters this week. Now it will be an automatic exemption as long as the player remains an amateur.
“That is a major amateur championship,” Masters chairman Fred Ridley said, “and I thought it was time that we acknowledged it. And we couldn’t be happier to have Gordon here this week; he’s a fine young man and a heck of a player. We are codifying that now going forward.”
Two other adjustments were made, including sending invitations to players who had qualified and were eligible for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship by being in the top 30 in FedExCup points.
The third change was inviting winners of all full-point PGA Tour events in the fall of 2023.
Players also continue to qualify by being in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That could limit golfers on LIV Golf, which has applied for its players to receive OWGR points and is awaiting a review. The rankings have not recognized LIV events, which are 54 holes and do not have a cut.
The Masters field represents the best players in the world, Ridley said.
“Our conclusion for the time being is that the Official World Golf Ranking, it’s a really good way to invite players,” Ridley said. “It’s an objective criteria based on data-driven analytics, and it’s consistently applied. I think most would agree it’s a good system.”
There are 18 LIV Golf members in the 2023 Masters, including six former champions who have lifetime invitations: Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson.
As it stands now, they will be able to return in 2024, along with three others who are enjoying five-year exemptions as major championship winners: Brooks Koepka (ends in 2024), Bryson DeChambeau (2025) and Cam Smith (2027).
Greg Norman, the commissioner of LIV, could have received an invite to the Masters because he is a past major champion. Norman won two Open Championships in 1986 and 1993.
“We did not extend an invitation to Mr. Norman,” Ridley said. “The primary issue and the driver there is that I want the focus this week to be on the Masters competition, on the great players that are participating, the greatest players in the world, which, by our decision in December, we ensured that we were going to honor and be consistent with our invitation criteria.”
–Field Level Media