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Masters calling

Last week, Augusta National Golf Club extended a special invitation to LIV Golf’s Joaquin Niemann, as well as Ryo Hisatsune and Thorbjorn Olesen, to the 2024 Masters tournament.

Niemann, 25, has been vocal about his displeasure regarding the lack of Official World Golf Ranking accreditation for LIV players, which has narrowed the avenues for members of the Saudi-backed circuit to qualify for golf’s best events.

Following his win at the season-opening LIV tournament in Mexico, Niemann remarked, “I’m not in the majors,” later adding, “It kind of hurt me a little bit not being in the majors and I think also helped me to get motivation to kind of earn my spot back into the majors, into the elite players.”

Niemann has played in a number of non-LIV competitions hoping to raise his OWGR standing, and captured the 2023 Australian Open in December.

It appears the Australian victory was a catalyst for his inclusion. In a press release, Augusta National cited that win, along with top-five finishes on the DP World Tour, among his credentials … with no mention of LIV Golf. Niemann is also a former Latin America Amateur Championship winner, an event run that Augusta National helps run and that awards Masters invitations. This will be Niemann’s fifth Masters appearance, having finshed T-16 in last year’s tournament.

“The Masters Tournament has a long-standing tradition of inviting leading international players who are not otherwise qualified,” said Augusta National and Masters chairman Fred Ridley in a statement. “Today’s announcement represents the Tournament’s continued commitment towards developing interest in the game of golf across the world. We look forward to welcoming each player to Augusta National this spring.”

Hisatsune, 21, became the first Japanese player to win DP World Tour Rookie of the Year honors last season. He earned a PGA Tour card for 2024 thanks to his final standing in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai standings.

Hisatsune has made the cut in three of four starts on the PGA Tour this season, his best finish a T-11 at the American Express. Olesen, 34, is a former European Ryder Cupper who won the DP World Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship last month.

This is the 15th time the Masters has given special invitations since the tournament implemented OWGR as an exemption category. The last time it awarded three invites in one year was 2008, with Jeev Milkha Singh, Prayad Marksaeng and Liang Wen-Chon competing in the tournament.

The 2024 Masters begins April 11. Jon Rahm is the defending champion. –Golf Digest

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