Masters chairman Fred Ridley confirmed that Augusta National did not invite former major champion and current LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman to this year’s event.
But Ridley stopped short of closing the door on Norman completely and said there had been a good “tone” between PGA Tour and LIV players on the grounds this week leading up to the 87th Masters.
LIV players have remained eligible for the four majors since they defected from the PGA Tour and DP World circuits last year to play for the Saudi-funded league.
“I’ve noticed a tone — the tone has been really good here this week,” Ridley said at his annual pre-Masters press conference. “I’ve noticed the players are interacting. Last night at the Champions Dinner, I would not have known that anything was going on in the world of professional golf other than the norm. So I think, and I’m hopeful, that this week might get people thinking in a little bit different direction and things will change.”
Six former Masters champions who now play for LIV — Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel — attended the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night. Mickelson is back at Augusta a year after taking a personal leave of absence amid the fallout of his controversial comments about Saudi Arabia and the fledgling LIV circuit to golf writer Alan Shipnuck.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the PGA Tour’s most outspoken critic of LIV and many of its members, played a practice round with LIV’s Brooks Koepka earlier in the week and said that each interpersonal relationship has “different dynamics.”
Norman, under normal circumstances, would 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.
“I would also add that, in the last 10 years, Greg Norman has only been here twice, and I believe one of those was as a commentator for Sirius Radio. It really was to keep the focus on the competition.”
Norman told media in his native Australia last week that he doesn’t believe he’ll ever be welcomed back at the Masters given his role in launching LIV, which caused a fracture in the golf world that became the story of the 2022 season.
“It’s hard to answer that question because, you know, I don’t know where the world is going to be next year or two years from now,” Ridley said before implying that the improved relations between PGA and LIV players could be a positive sign. “But as I stated, I would say — I would never say never. But I told you why he had not been invited this year.”
–Field Level Media