[PHOTO: Getty Images]

LIV Golf’s 2023 individual champion Talor Gooch is disappointed he is without a Masters invitation while former world No.1 Lee Westwood says golf’s majors will lose credibility if they continue to use an “obsolete” Official World Golf Ranking when issuing invitations.

Augusta National Golf Club last week issued three special invitations to April’s Masters. Just one of those invites went to a LIV player – Chile’s Joaquin Niemann who won the ISPS Handa Australian Open in December. Ryo Hisatsune and Thorbjorn Olesen were the other recipients.

Gooch was snubbed by Augusta National despite winning three times on last year’s LIV Golf League where he beat the likes of Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson in the season-long points race.

Gooch, who finished second at LIV Golf Las Vegas just two weeks ago, has plummeted to world No.427 as the OWGR refuses to award ranking points to LIV tournaments.

Fellow LIV players Dean Burmester (No.95) and Louis Oosthuizen (No.137) were also snubbed by Augusta National despite both winning twice on the DP World Tour in late-2023. 

Yet Augusta National cited Niemann’s Australian Open victory and two other top-10s in European Tour-sanctioned events as justification for his invitation.

Assuming Gooch doesn’t receive a late-invitation to the Masters, it would be one of the rare instances in four decades of the OWGR that a leading golfer has been overlooked. Given the apparent animosity towards LIV Golf by golf’s establishment, Gooch told Australian Golf Digest he wasn’t expecting a Masters invitation. 

“It’s not surprising. I think the majors have kind of shown that they’re not getting on board with LIV. ‘Jaco’ went outside of LIV and played some great golf and they rewarded him for that. So hopefully the day will turn when the majors decide to start rewarding good play on LIV. Hopefully that’ll be sooner than later.”

In an ominous portent to Augusta National, Gooch said: “If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his [Career] Grand Slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk. It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

LIV Golf member Lee Westwood said it was farcical to see the current rankings of some recent major winners. (Photo by Jason Butler/Getty Images)

Former world No.1 Westwood said the decision to exclude LIV Golf tournaments from the OWGR was detrimental to golf.

Speaking exclusively to Australian Golf Digest, Westwood said: “I think the Official World Golf Ranking has got itself into a real hole. It’s got itself to a point where it’s obsolete, really, if I’m being completely honest. It’s managed to be so stubborn that it no longer ranks all the best golfers in the world fairly. And it’s gone so far that I don’t see how it can come back from the hole that it’s in because you can’t backdate them.”

LIV Golf member Westwood said it was farcical to see the current rankings of recent Major winners Johnson (No.238) and DeChambeau (No.169).

“I don’t know where the OWGR goes from there. It’s not fit for purpose anymore. It’s there to rank the best golfers in the world and it doesn’t do that. And if you are a major championship and you’re looking for the best fields, you now can’t go off the OWGR to formulate your fields and use them for exemptions. You’ve got to find another way of doing it, otherwise you lose credibility as a major championship, don’t you?”

Marc Leishman believes it’s on the majors to introduce a new exemption criteria for LIV Golf’s top players (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)

Australia’s Marc Leishman agreed, saying it’s a waste of time trying to fix the existing OWGR model by accommodating LIV golfers. The Ripper GC member called upon the majors to sort out the mess.

“My opinion is that it’s not up to the Official World Golf Ranking. I believe it’s gone too far. I think it’s up to the majors now to have some sort of exemption criteria for the LIV Tour. The PGA Tour has its top 30 (Tour Championship qualifiers) get in the majors. Maybe LIV can get its top 12 at season’s end, given the smaller fields and all that.”