Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley has explained the reason why LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman was not invited to the Masters, which gets underway at the famed course in the United States this week. The year’s first golf major presents an intriguing scenario in which players from Norman’s Saudi-backed rebel competition will once again compete against their PGA Tour rivals for the coveted green jacket.
LIV Golf’s stars have been banned from competing on the PGA Tour but are allowed to compete at the Masters, following a decision from Augusta National bosses. However, Augusta bosses opted not to invite Aussie golf legend Norman, out of fears his presence would distract from the actual tournament.
Norman – who has been at the centre of the bitter civil war between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour – branded his Masters snub as “petty” after confirming that he had not be invited to attend the year’s first major. “Funnily enough, I haven’t been invited,” Norman told The Telegraph. “As a major winner I always was before, but they only sent me a grounds pass last year and nothing, zilch, this time around. I’m disappointed because it’s so petty but of course I’ll still be watching.”
Many golfers from both sides have played down the bitter tensions between LIV players PGA Tour stars, with Bubba Watson claiming it has been over-exaggerated by the media. Aussie LIV golf superstar Cameron Smith also claimed this week that he had received a warm reception upon his return to Augusta.
The Augusta chairman praised the “tone” taken by golfers from both side’s of the sport’s split during the build-up to the tournament. However, he suggested Norman’s presence at Augusta threatened to tale the attention away from the iconic tournament.
“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.
“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.”
Masters field includes 18 players from LIV Golf
Norman is the public face of the Saudi-backed breakaway series, which has 18 golfers competing in this year’s Masters, including British Open champion Smith and former winners Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel. Major champions Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen and Brooks Koepka also make up the LIV contingent.
As for whether Norman – who won two British Open titles during a decorated career – could be invited in the future, Ridley refused to close the door entirely but did not exactly offer an olive branch either. “It’s hard to answer that question because I don’t know where the world is going to be next year or two years from now,” Ridley said. “But as I stated, I would never say never.”
Augusta National, like other major sanctioning bodies, has allowed LIV players to compete this year based on their qualification process. But with LIV competitions not yet recognised by the Official World Golf Rankings, it is going to be increasingly difficult for LIV players to qualify for the majors, unless they have been granted exemptions as previous winners.
Players from both sides of the divide, such as the PGA Tour’s Rory McIlroy and LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka, have practiced with each other on the course and refrained from the personal attacks which have accompanied the bitter divide. Ridley said he hoped that mood might carry over after the Masters.
“I’m hopeful. I’ve noticed a tone – the tone has been really good here this week,” Ridley added. “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.”
Source : YahooSport