Masters issues special invite’s to LIV Golf’s Joaquin Niemann, two others

On Wednesday morning, The Masters dropped a press release announcing that three players accepted special invites to play in the 88th playing of the event.

Those golfers include LIV Golf star Joaquin Niemann, Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen and Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune.

“The Masters Tournament has a long-standing tradition of inviting leading international players who are not otherwise qualified,” Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Chairman, Fred Ridley, said. “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.”

Niemann recently posted a sub-60 round and won LIV Golf’s season opener in Mexico earlier this month. That came on the heels of him also winning the Australian Open in December (a co-sanctioned event) and then logging a fourth place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour in January.

It is quite obvious that Niemann is one of the better players in the world. But this development is still sure to raise some eyebrows.

There are a number of members of LIV who will tee it up at Augusta National. They will do so via exemption as past major champions.

But Augusta National Golf Club is setting a precedent likely to be followed by other governing bodies of golf.

Niemann is in the field for the Asian Tour’s International Series in Oman this week. However, that appearance won’t increase his No. 81 Official World Golf Ranking. The field at that event isn’t strong enough to push him up the standings.

“It kind of hurt me a little bit not being in the majors and I think it helped me to get motivation to kind of earn my spot back into the majors, into the elite players,” he said after his LIV Mexico win. “I think it helped me a little bit to get focused back, to start working harder, to start working with a purpose.”

This year will mark Niemann’s fifth start at the Masters. His best finish came in 2023 when he finished T16. The Chilean golfer made his first start at Augusta National in 2018 when he was the reigning Latin America Amateur champion and the No. 1 amateur in the world.

Meanwhile, Hisatsune will be making his Masters debut. The 21-year-old Japanese player won the DP World Tour’s Rookie of the Year after his performance in 2023.

He won the French Open and logged a T8 at the Australian Open. Hisatsune’s play earned him the distinction of becoming the first ever Japanese DP World Tour Rookie of the Year.

Olesen will make his fourth Masters appearance, making the cut in all three of his previous starts. He made his debut at the historic event in 2013 when he captured a T6 finish. In January, Olesen won for the third straight year on the DP World Tour, capturing the Ras Al Khaimah Championship by a whopping six strokes.

Ridley also announced that 83 players received invitations to play in this year’s tournament. Their criteria remain the same, meaning players need to be winners of upcoming PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation. The other standard is to be ranked in the Top 50 of the OWGR the week before the tournament.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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