Tom Watson hopes players ‘do something’ and mend the PGA Tour-LIV Golf split

Tom Watson hits the ceremonial tee shot during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Course.
Honorary starter Tom Watson hits a ceremonial tee shot during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Course on Thursday.
(George Walker IV / Associated Press)

The professional golf world is bumping along down two separate paths, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, and those have converged at the Masters.

This is the first time since last year’s U.S. Open that all of the game’s best players have convened to compete against each other.

Noticing that, two-time Masters winner Tom Watson felt the urge to say something about it this week at the annual Champions Dinner, which was honoring defending champion Jon Rahm, who since has defected to the LIV tour.


“We were sitting down and we were having great stories about [late Masters champion] Seve Ballesteros and people were laughing and talking,” Watson said Thursday, after opening tee times were pushed back an hour for inclement weather.

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Watson and fellow legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player participated in the traditional start to the tournament, hitting their ceremonial tee shots on No. 1.

At the dinner on Tuesday night, Watson wanted to say a few words, so he asked Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley if that would be OK. Ridley said, “Please do.”

“I got up and said, ‘I’m looking around the room, and I’m seeing just a wonderful experience everyone is having,’” Watson said. “They are jovial. They are having a great time. They are laughing. I said, ‘Ain’t it good to be together again?’

“And there was kind of a pall from the joviality and it quieted down… In a sense, I hope that the players themselves took that to say, ‘You know, we do have to do something.’”

Watson said Thursday that golf has been “fractured” by the two competing tours fighting over the best players in the game.


There are 13 LIV players competing in this year’s Masters, including Rahm; Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka, who tied for second in last year’s tournament; and Patrick Reed, who finished fourth.

Defending Masters champion Jon Rahm is among the LIV Golf players competing at Augusta National Golf Club this weekend.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

“We want to get together like we were at the Champions Dinner, happy, the best players playing against each other,” said Watson, flanked at a news conference by Nicklaus and Player. “The bottom line, that’s what we want in professional golf, and right now we don’t have it.”

Of the many issues that need to be resolved, sorting out who is invited to the Masters is a big one. Players who defect for LIV cannot play in PGA Tour events. They can compete in the Masters and the other three major championships if they qualify.

One of those ways to qualify involves their world ranking, but players don’t receive Official World Golf Ranking points for LIV events. So the field of LIV golfers in the Masters could dwindle by the year.

That means even fewer chances for the world’s best players to compete against each other.

“There’s a lot of people a lot smarter than me that could figure this out in a much more efficient way,” Rahm said. “But the obvious answer is that there’s got to be a way for certain players in whatever tour to be able to earn their way in.”


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Ridley noted that because the Masters is an invitational event, the tournament has the leeway to invite players who might not otherwise qualify, as is the case with some up-and-coming international golfers.

“If we felt there were a player or players, whether they played on the LIV tour or any other tour, who were deserving of an invitation to the Masters,” he said, “we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations.”

By late Thursday afternoon, Bryson DeChambeau was leading the tournament at seven under par. He’s a LIV golfer. This isn’t going away.