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Friday, February 23, 2024
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The Case of the Shrinking Masters Field. (Shhh: LIV Golf Did It)

  • The 2024 Masters could have fewer than 80 competitors for the first time since 1985.
  • The dip comes as the impact of players joining LIV Golf is felt more broadly, with drops in the world rankings threatening their eligibility.
Arizona Republic

The Masters is the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, but even Augusta National isn’t immune to the disruption caused by LIV Golf.

In April, what is likely to be one of the smallest Masters fields in decades will vie for the Green Jacket, as fewer professional players are receiving the necessary world rankings points to become eligible. Heading into the new year, just 77 players are set to qualify for the 2024 Masters once the final world rankings for 2023 are official. Since 2000, the Masters field has ranged from 87 to 99 players. 

A 78th player will qualify for Augusta at the Latin America Amateur Championship, but no further spots are guaranteed. Now, the only other way to qualify is by winning one of the 14 PGA Tour events before the Masters, or entering the top 50 in the world rankings the week prior to the tournament. 

The last time the Masters had fewer than 80 participants was in 1985, when the field size dipped to 77. In October, LIV Golf was denied its latest attempt to earn world rankings points for its events. Augusta National subsequently announced that it would not make special exemptions for LIV players. 

Earlier this year, 18 LIV members competed at the Masters, but just half of those players are exempt (through Masters or other major championship victories) for 2024. The other nine have seen steep drops in the world rankings — such as Kevin Na, who was in the top 50 a year ago and now ranks No. 620 — and they can’t make up any more ground. Jon Rahm, who just joined LIV, won the 2023 Masters and its $3.24 million prize, drawing in more than 12 million viewers for the final round.

The Masters typically brings by far the smallest field of golf’s four majors. The PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Open Championship annually have up to 156 players, and they allow more qualifying methods than the Masters.

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