LIV Golf players will be able to play in the 2023 Masters provided they meet the tournament's existing entry criteria.

Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel joined the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway LIV Golf series this year, but will be eligible to compete at Augusta next April due to being former Masters champions.

Cameron Smith has been invited to play due to his Open triumph this year, while Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka can also tee off in Georgia as a result of their major successes.

Augusta National Golf Club Fred Ridley said in a statement: "From its inception in 1934, the purpose of the Masters Tournament has been to benefit the game of golf.

"Each April, the Masters assembles the world’s leading golfers to compete for the Green Jacket and a place in history.

"Regrettably, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it.

"Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honour the tradition of bringing together a pre-eminent field of golfers this coming April.

"Therefore, as invitations are sent this week, we will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament.

"We have reached a seminal point in the history of our sport. At Augusta National, we have faith that golf, which has overcome many challenges through the years, will endure again."

Mickelson did not play in the Masters this year as he took time out from the sport after coming in for huge criticism over comments he made about Saudi Arabia's human rights record before joining LIV Golf.

In the headline matchup from the first day of the LIV Golf Team Championship, Cameron Smith finished 1up against Phil Mickelson to help Punch GC advance past Hy Flyers GC in Friday's quarter-finals.

The format for the Team Championship has the top-four teams automatically advancing to Saturday's semi-finals, while teams five-through-12 battled it out on the opening day.

With teams of four, it meant there would be two one-on-one match play rounds, as well as a two-on-two foursomes played with alternate shot rules, with the team who wins two-out-of-three getting to advance.

For Punch GC, Smith was matched up with Mickelson, and they went onto the 18th hole tied, before Mickelson left the door open with a bogey to finish his round, allowing Smith to secure one win for his team with a par.

Smith's Australian teammate Marc Leishman enjoyed a much more dominant victory, working his way to a 4up lead through seven holes on his way to a 4 and 2 win against J.J. Wolf. Hy Flyers did salvage one point despite getting eliminated, with the duo of Bernd Wiesberger and Cameron Tringale beating Wade Ormsby and Matt Jones 3 and 2.

It was a three-to-zero clean sweep for Majesticks GC, with Ian Poulter beating Kevin Na 4 and 2, Lee Westwood defeating Sihwan Kim 4 and 3, and the team of Sam Horsfield with Henrik Stenson collecting a 4 and 2 victory over Sadom Kaewkanjana and Phachara Khongwatmai.

For Smash GC it was Chase pulling through for the Koepka clan as Brooks Koepka fell convincingly in a 4 and 3 loss to Niblicks GC's Harold Varner III.

But Smash GC will move on to the semi-finals after Chase Koepka and Jason Kokrak beat Turk Petit and Hudson Swafford 2 and 1, while Peter Uihlein hammered James Piot 5 and 3.

In the last quarter-final, Cleeks GC booked their semi-final matchup against Dustin Johnson and the top-seeded 4 Aces GC after winning two-out-of-three against Torque GC.

Joaquinn Niemann did all he could for Torque GC, cruising past Shergo Al Kurdi 5 and 3 after Al Kurdi stepped in for Cleeks GC captain Martin Kaymer, who was a late withdrawal.

But Laurie Canter kept his team in it with a narrow 1up win over Jediah Morgan, before Graeme McDowell and Richard Bland put Torque GC through to the next round with a 2up victory against Scott Vincent and Adrian Otaegui.

The eight remaining teams will compete in the same format in the semi-finals, with Cameron Smith against Fireballs GC captain Sergio Garcia shaping up as the main event.

Ian Poutler has refuted Rory McIlroy's claim that players joining the LIV Golf Invitational Series engaged in a "betrayal" of their former Ryder Cup team-mates.

Five players who featured in Europe's comprehensive defeat at last year's Ryder Cup have since joined the controversial breakaway circuit, including Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson was stripped of Team Europe's captaincy for next year's competition – set to take place at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome – following his own decision to join LIV Golf.

It remains uncertain whether players from the LIV circuit will be able to feature at the 2023 Ryder Cup, and McIlroy has repeatedly insisted they should not. 

Speaking to the Guardian on Tuesday, McIlroy went a step further, saying: "I think it is the first time in my life that I have felt betrayal, in a way. It's an unfamiliar feeling to me. You build bonds with these people through Ryder Cups and other things."

Poulter responded to that statement at a press conference ahead of LIV's next event in Miami, saying: "A betrayal? I mean, we can still qualify for the team, as far as I'm aware, unless we've been told we can't qualify.

"I'm still ready to play as much as I possibly can and try and make that team.

"My commitment to the Ryder Cup, I think goes before me. I don't think that should ever come into question. 

"I've always wanted to play Ryder Cups and play with as much passion as anyone else that I've ever seen play a Ryder Cup, I don't know where those comments really come from, to be honest."

Phil Mickelson – one of the first household names to join LIV Golf – spoke alongside Poulter on Wednesday but refused to engage with McIlroy's claim the circuit's feud with the PGA Tour was "out of control". 

"I think a lot of Rory, I really have the utmost respect for him, [for] what he's done in the game and how he's played this year," Mickelson said. 

"I have a tonne of respect for him. As players, we have three months off after this event to talk about things like that and so forth."

Rory McIlroy has hit back at Phil Mickelson by claiming the American's verdict that the PGA Tour is "trending downwards" is illogical.

Northern Irishman McIlroy has been one of the most prominent opponents of the LIV Golf breakaway tour, which made Mickelson an early flagship signing.

Mickelson said in Jeddah last week: "I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.

"I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards. And I love the side that I'm on."

McIlroy has the likes of Tiger Woods in his corner, staying true to the tour that has for many years provided their livelihood.

"I think the people that have decided to stay here and play these tournaments, they or we haven't done anything differently than what we've always done. We're sticking to the system that has traditionally been there," McIlroy said.

"The guys that have gone over to LIV are the ones that have made the disruption they're the ones you have put the golf world in flux right now.

"For them to be talking the way they are, it's bold and there's a ton of propaganda being used. But I certainly don't see the PGA Tour trending downwards.

"Ninety-five per cent of the talent is here. You've people like Tom Kim coming through and that's the future of our game.

"I don't agree with what Phil said last week. I understand why he said it, because of the position he is in, but I don't think anyone that takes a logical view of the game of golf can agree with what he said."

Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the other high-profile players who turned their back on the PGA Tour

McIlroy, competing this week at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, has a chance to go back to the top of the world rankings, if he has a stellar week and Scottie Scheffler struggles.

With no points currently available at LIV events, it has made the route back to number one perhaps less arduous than it might have been for McIlroy.

McIlroy said: "If I get back to number one this week, it's like my ninth time getting back.

"It's like a heavyweight boxer losing a world title, and it's the journey of getting it back. That's the journey I've been on over the last 12 months."

Across his previous eight stints at number one, McIlroy has spent 106 weeks atop the rankings.

He ardently wants top spot again but says the fact of being number one would still have him wanting more.

"I got to number one in the world [for the first time] after I won the Honda Classic in 2012, and it'd been a goal of mine for maybe six months up until that point," McIlroy said. "I ended up getting there after the Honda, but I remember waking up the next morning and being like, 'Is this it?'.

"You work towards the goal for so long but don't feel any different after having achieved it, so it's a matter of having to reframe your goals and re-framing what success looks like.

"I think that's one of the great things about this game. No matter what you've achieved or what success you've had, you always want to do something else. You've got to maybe work harder to stay there."

Brooks Koepka holds a two-stroke lead of LIV Golf Jeddah after finishing the opening round eight under par in Saudi Arabia.

The four-time major champion made eight birdies in his round of 62 and did not go over par on any hole to head into the weekend ahead of second-placed Charl Schwartzel, while Patrick Reed is tied for third with Hideto Tanihara and Peter Uihlein at three shots off the lead.

The inaugural individual LIV Golf champion Dustin Johnson is T16 on two under par, alongside Open champion and world number two Cameron Smith.

Johnson, who has collected 121 points across the season, struck five birdies, but a double-bogey on the par-three eighth set him back.

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood fared slightly better at three under, the latter not carding any bogies in his round.

LIV Golf Bangkok winner Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra struggled to back up his performance in Thailand and is T28 at one under par, seven shots back from Koepka. Bryson DeChambeau, meanwhile, only managed a par 70.

After withdrawing from LIV Golf Bangkok with injury, Branden Grace carded a one-over-par round on his return to action.

Phil Mickelson says he has on the "winning side" with LIV Golf and believes the PGA Tour is "trending downwards."

Mickelson defected from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed breakaway series on a hugely lucrative contract in June.

Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the other high-profile players who turned their back on the PGA Tour to sign up for LIV Golf.

As he prepares to tee off in Jeddah on Friday, six-time major winner Mickelson is in no doubt he made the right decision.

He said: "Golf is very lucky to have the PIF [Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia] invest in the game… being influxed with billions of dollars.

"Now the US and the UK are not favourable to this, but everywhere else in the world, LIV Golf is loved. It is very negatively viewed currently [in the US and UK], but that has been changing and evolving already and in a few years LIV will be not only accepted but appreciated, because of the involvement and the influx of capital and what it is doing."

He added: "I've spoken with people who have had dealings that have not been positive with the [PGA] Tour and have had nothing but positive experiences with LIV.

"For a long, long time, my 30 years on the PGA Tour, pretty much all the best players played on the PGA Tour. That will never be the case again.

"I think going forward you have to pick the side you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.

"I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards. And I love the side that I'm on."

Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra claimed the LIV Golf Bangkok title after carding a final-round 69 to win by three strokes on a weather-affected final day.

The 22-year-old took a five-shot lead into the final round and did enough to hold off late charges from the likes of Patrick Reed and Paul Casey, the latter of whom will be left to rue an opening round of 71 after shooting 65 on both the second and third days.

Nobody bettered Lopez-Chacarra's first and second rounds of 65 and 63 respectively, and he overcame two bogies on the front nine to finish three under on the final day and seal victory, maintaining his focus despite play being suspended for an hour and a half because of a storm in the area.

The Spaniard was a high-ranked amateur before joining the controversial Saudi-backed tour in June and now earns his first professional championship, as well as a $4million purse.

Richard Bland and Branden Grace formed part of a leading trio with Lopez-Chacarra on seven under after the opening round, but Grace withdrew with injury on Saturday while Bland could not follow up his first-day success, losing pace on the eventual winner to finish joint-third – alongside Casey and Sihwan Kim and a stroke behind second-placed Reed.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka was joint-eighth at 13 under, while Bryson DeChambeau ended 14th at 10 under.

Other big names were way off the pace, with Phil Mickelson 10 shots behind Lopez-Chacarra and 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith finishing a disappointing tournament tied for 41st at four under.

Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra will take a five-stroke lead into the final round at LIV Golf Bangkok after ending a brilliant second day in Thailand at 16 under par.

Lopez-Chacarra was one of a leading trio on seven under after the first round, but Richard Bland was unable to keep up with the Spaniard and Branden Grace withdrew after just three holes on Saturday due to an acute muscle strain.

Bland is one of four five shots off the lead with Sihwan Kim, Patrick Reed and Harold Varner III – while they may not be completely out of the running yet, the chasing pack need Lopez-Chacarra to lose momentum.

If his form from the first two rounds is anything to go by, there is little hope of such a collapse, with no one in the field bettering his respective scores of 65 and 63.

Saturday's 63 was nine under par as the 22-year-old – who was a high-ranked amateur before joining LIV Golf in June – carded seven birdies and an eagle, which was holed from the sand on six, and avoided a single bogey.

Those trailing Lopez-Chacarra will be hoping the Madrid native's inexperience leads to a blip on Sunday.

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka is one of those who will aim to propel himself into contention as he sits on 10 under for the tournament, though victory will require something special.

Few other big names retain much of a chance of glory, however, with Bryson DeChambeau at seven under and Phil Mickelson another shot back.

Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson are among a group on four under, while 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith is way down near the bottom of the standings at two under.

If Lopez-Chacarra can hold his nerve on Sunday, he will have gone from amateur golfer to winner of a $4million purse within four months.

Cameron Smith was among the early stragglers at LIV Golf Bangkok as the Open champion finished his first round seven shots adrift of the leaders.

After winning the Chicago leg of the breakaway series last month, Australian Smith would have been hoping for more at Stonehill Golf Course on Friday.

A double bogey at 16 was followed by a pair of pars as he came home in level-par 72.

Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra, Richard Bland and Branden Grace were the unlikely leading trio on seven under, with Marc Leishman and Ian Poulter tied for fourth one shot back.

Brooks Koepka was one of five players on five under, with Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau three under and Dustin Johnson two under.

Only five players shot worse scores than Smith, with Chase Koepka and Matthew Wolff bringing up the rear on two under.

The three co-leaders all had bogey-free rounds, each posting rounds of 65 after making seven birdies.

Lopez-Chacarra is a 22-year-old Spaniard who was a top amateur before embarking on his professional career in the LIV ranks. He has yet to have a top-20 finish on the tour.

Bland is a 49-year-old Englishman who in May 2021 won his first European Tour title at the 478th attempt; while Grace, with two wins on the PGA Tour and nine on the European Tour, is the renowned top performer among the pace-setting trio.

The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) on Thursday revealed that no rankings points will be up for grabs in Bangkok this week or Jeddah next week.

The PGA Tour has accused the LIV Golf Invitational Series of making "astronomical" offers to players in a bid to "sportswash" Saudi Arabia's global image in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday. 

The controversial LIV series – which counts the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau among its ranks – launched an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour last month.

LIV accused the PGA of operating as a monopoly and alleged the Tour's decision to issue suspensions to players who joined the breakaway circuit was improper.

Eleven LIV golfers were originally named as plaintiffs in that claim, although eight – including Mickelson – have since withdrawn.

The PGA Tour has now hit back with legal action of its own, alleging: "A key component of LIV's strategy has been to intentionally induce Tour members to breach their Tour agreements and play in LIV events while seeking to maintain their Tour memberships and play in marquee Tour events, so LIV can free ride off the Tour and its platform."

The PGA's counterclaim goes on to accuse LIV of offering players "astronomical sums of money" in an attempt "to use the LIV Players and the game of golf to sportswash the recent history of Saudi atrocities."

In a widely publicised statement, LIV responded by saying: "The Tour has made these counterclaims in a transparent effort to divert attention from their anti-competitive conduct.

"We remain confident that the courts and the justice system will right these wrongs."

FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy – who has been a staunch critic of the LIV series – declared golf was "ripping itself apart" earlier on Thursday, as the bitter divide between the two circuits shows no signs of healing.

One day earlier, McIlroy called on LIV players to do more to foster a sense of reconciliation between the tours, declaring: "The ball is in their court".

Rory McIlroy believes "golf is ripping itself apart right now" as the battle between the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf Invitational Series rages on.

The introduction of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf has caused a huge divide in the sport, with big names such as Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau defecting from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf.

The storm has also seen some defectors file lawsuits against the PGA Tour after it banned those who made the switch to LIV Golf from playing in its events.

And McIlroy, who has remained fiercely loyal to the PGA Tour, sees the dispute as harmful for players on both sides of the divide, telling reporters: "I don't want a fractured game. I never have.

"You look at some other sports and what's happened and the game of golf is ripping itself apart right now.

"It's no good for the guys on, you know, this side or the sort of traditional system and it's no good for the guys on the other side, either.

"It's no good for anyone. There is a time and a place for it. I just think right now, with where everything is, it's probably not the right time.

"I've always said I think there is a time and a place where everyone that's involved here should sit down and try to work together. It's very hard for that to happen right now when there's two lawsuits going on."

McIlroy already said on Wednesday that it fell upon LIV Golf players to take the lead on repairing relations between the two tours.

"I would just say the ball is in their court," McIlroy told the BBC.

"If they want to come to the table and try to play nicely within the sandbox that's already created, the opportunity is there."

Phil Mickelson has asked a federal judge to withdraw his name from the lawsuit filed by LIV Golf Invitational Series players against the PGA Tour, along with three others.

Talor Gooch, Ian Poulter and Hudson Swafford also want to be dismissed from the antitrust lawsuit, leaving just three players from the original 11 who filed against the Tour.

Mickelson, one of the most prominent defectors from to LIV Golf this year, had been expected to remove his name after the breakaway series joined the suit as a plaintiff.

Only Bryson DeChambeau, Peter Uihlein and Matt Jones now remain as individuals.

The lawsuit accuses the PGA Tour of benefiting from operating as a monopoly and alleges it improperly suspended LIV Golf players from its events.

"Nothing has changed," LIV Golf spokesman Jonathan Grella said in a statement.

"The merits of the case – the PGA Tour's anticompetitive conduct – still stand and will be fully tested in court. And we look forward to that.

"LIV stands with the players whom the PGA Tour has treated so poorly, but we also recognise that to be successful, we no longer need a wide array of players to be on the suit.

"We have our players' backs and will press our case against the PGA Tour's anticompetitive behaviour."

Cameron Smith proved too good for the field at LIV Golf Chicago as the Australian scored a three-shot win for his maiden triumph on the new tour.

Smith, the reigning Open and Players champion, posted a three-under 69 in his third trip around Rich Harvest Farms, with six birdies and three bogeys seeing him finish at 13 under overall.

He started his round in a wobbly fashion, with two bogeys in his first six holes, but steadied down the stretch to fend off any late drama. Smith birdied his final two holes and capped the win with a long-range putt, living up to his reputation as arguably the world's best putter.

Smith pockets $4million, but during his interview after stepping off the 18th green he said this week was about proving how good he is, no matter where he is playing.

"I think I had to prove to probably myself and some other people that I'm a great player, and I'm still out here to win golf tournaments," Smith said.

"I'm proud of how I hung in there today, I didn't have my best stuff for the first eight or nine holes, but I stuck it tough and made a few good putts coming in – it was nice."

Smith fended off a late push from Dustin Johnson, who finished tied for second at 10 under, and said he hopes the two of them can build a friendly rivalry as LIV's top two players.

"I think so, he's probably the one in the group of players here who you look at and think he's going to be close to the top of the leaderboard every week," Smith said. "I hope he thinks the same about me, and hopefully we can keep it going."

While Johnson fell just short in the individual play, he converted a crucial birdie on the final hole to secure the fourth consecutive team title for 4 Aces GC, edging out Smash GC, who were able to count on the other player tied for second place, Peter Uihlein.

"It feels good, obviously this one was really close and came down to the wire," Johnson said. "I knew we were one up on Peter [Uihlein]'s team, so I needed to tie or beat him on the last hole, and we both made nice up-and-downs.

"It feels great to get another team win – but a little disappointed with the way I played today, and yesterday."

Despite 4 Aces GC winning overall, only two of their four members finished under par. Johnson led the way, with Patrick Reed at five under, Pat Perez at even par and Talor Gooch at three over.

Smith was done no great favours in that respect by his team-mates either, with Marc Leishman finishing tied for last at six over, while Wade Ormsby was four over to relegate Punch GC to fourth in the team standings. At least Matt Jones contributed positively, posting four under for the tournament.

Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann rounded out the top five in the individual standings at eight under, Stinger GC team-mates Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel tied for sixth at seven under, and Phil Mickelson collected his first top-10 finish on the tour as he tied with Bryson DeChambeau for eighth at six under, among a group of four on that score.

Cameron Smith is three strokes clear of the field heading into the final round at LIV Golf Chicago, following up his opening 66 with a strong four-under 68 to sit at 10 under.

Smith, the reigning Open and Players champion, finished one stroke off the winner at his debut LIV event in Boston, and now has put himself in the box seat for his first win on the controversial tour.

He posted five birdies and one bogey during his second trip around Rich Harvest Farms, with only one player shooting better than his 68 on Saturday.

That player was Peter Uihlein, who climbed up to a tie for second at seven under with his 66, with seven birdies and one bogey.

Uihlein is tied with round-one leader Dustin Johnson, who followed up his blistering 63 with a disappointing two-over 74, and one shot further back in a tie for fourth is Laurie Canter and Charl Schwartzel and six under.

Rounding out the top-10, Crushers GC teammates Bryson DeChambeau and Charles Howell III are tied for sixth at five under along with Lee Westwood, and Smith's Punch GC teammate Matt Jones is part of the group tied for ninth at four under.

Smith and Jones have Punch GC one stroke off the lead in the team standings, trailing only Johnson's 4 Aces GC, who have won the last three events in a row. Johnson is doing most of the heavy lifting as captain, with his teammates Patrick Reed at one under, Talor Gooch at two over and Pat Perez at three over.

After a two-under opening round, Phil Mickelson went two over on Saturday to head into the final round at even par.

Phil Mickelson is convinced the LIV Golf Invitational Series is "here to stay" and the PGA Tour's dominance has come to an end.

The 52-year-old is one of several high-profile players to move from the PGA Tour to the new controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf, including Bryson DeChambeau and Open champion Cameron Smith.

The PGA Tour has been rocked by LIV Golf's emergence and since introduced numerous changes to retain players, such as increasing purses and encouraging its biggest names to play together more often. It has also suspended defectors from its tournaments.

But Mickelson believes the PGA Tour will have to come to terms with losing players to LIV Golf, telling reporters: "The PGA Tour, for the last 20 or 30 years have had all the best players in the world.

"That will never be the case again. LIV Golf is here to stay."

The bitter dispute led to some defectors suing their former tour, but Mickelson believes cooperation between the two rival tours would be beneficial for the sport.

"The best solution is for us to come together," added Mickelson after a two-under-par opening round of the ongoing LIV Golf tournament in Chicago.

"I think that the world of professional golf has a need for the old historical 'history of the game' product that the PGA Tour provides. I think that LIV provides a really cool, updated feel that is attracting a lot younger crowds.

"Both are good for the game of golf and the inclusion of LIV Golf in the ecosystem of the golf world is necessary. As soon as that happens, we all start working together. It's going to be a really positive thing for everyone."

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