The work has been done. Now comes the wait to see if, indeed, it will pay off.
Since 1999, Augusta National officials have invited all those inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of the previous calendar year to compete in the upcoming Masters. Assuming this tradition continues, and that all the other qualifying criteria used in 2022 remains in place for the 2023 tournament, 13 players who hadn’t yet qualified for the upcoming Major appear as if they’ve earned a pending invitation. They include:
Tyrrell Hatton (projected OWGR: 26) Ryan Fox (28) Kevin Kisner (31) Abraham Ancer (32) Thomas Pieters (37) Alex Noren (39) Talor Gooch (40) Kurt Kitayama (42) Harold Varner III (45) Jason Kokrak (47) Adrian Meronk (48) Kevin Na (49) Louis Oosthuizen (50)
The reason for all the caveats and consternation? Well, the final official OWGR ranking doesn’t come out until next week; these names are based off the projected ranking the OWGR released on Friday.
Secondly, and more dramatically, it’s unclear whether Augusta National will tinker with its qualifying criteria for 2023 to reflect the rise of LIV Golf and the fact that players in the upstart league are prohibited from playing PGA Tour events. The Masters is a sanctioned tour event but run independently by the famed Georgia golf club. And the club has not indicated what its position will be on LIV golfers competing in the championship, whether they be past champions who have earned lifetime exemptions (such as Phil Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson) or through other qualifying via other criteria.
Of the 13 new players seemingly eligible via the OWGR, five of them are LIV golfers (Ancer, Varner, Kokrak, Na and Oosthuizen). Oosthuizen in particular has been sweating things out the past few weeks, aware that his OWGR had been slipping throughout the second half of 2022 because LIV Golf events don’t offer OWGR points.
Anxious enough to stay inside the top 50, Oosthuizen entered last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship in his native South Africa, an event co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour and offering OWGR points. Oosthuizen’s final-round 68 was just enough to keep his grip on 50th spot in the OWGR ranking, despite a bogey on the final hole that dropped him from T-4 to T-7 in the event.
There was the potential that Oosthuizen could be passed on the final OWGR list by Dean Burmester, another South African who competed in this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. But Burmester had to win the tournament to be able to jump from 53rd and push Oosthuizen off the bubble and he instead missed the cut.
Again, assuming Augusta National maintains its 2022 qualifying criteria, a total of 15 LIV golfers have earned spots so far: the six past champions, five off the OWGR, Bryson DeChambeau (from his 2020 US Open win), Brooks Koepka (four Major wins), Cameron Smith (2022 Open win) and Joaquin Niemann (qualified for the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship in 2022).
So now everybody waits to see if Augusta National will formally announce anything regarding its qualifying criteria for 2023 – or whether we’ll all just learn if anything has changed or not from players taking to social media to let it be known that an invitation has come in the mail.