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GOLF CIRCUIT

Masters chairman endorses merger of two leagues

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the eighth hole during the final round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on 30 January 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

History over histrionics, tradition over tension, golf appears to be back on the same fairway.

That’s the take from Masters chairman Fred Ridley, who opted not to extend an invitation to LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman for the 2023 Masters to minimise the drama but is now endorsing the merger of the two leagues announced Tuesday.

Ridley, named in an antitrust suit filed by LIV players, said in April when explaining his decision to welcome 18 players from LIV that he looked forward to a day when golf could be viewed in terms other than two competing factions. Augusta National was also part of the antitrust probe launched by the Department of Justice this year.

On Tuesday, LIV Golf and the PGA Tour announced a truce that would dissolve standing litigation and unite top players from the rival leagues.

“As we have expressed previously, what makes golf special is its rich history and ability to bring people together. We are encouraged by this announcement, which represents a positive development in bringing harmony to men’s professional golf,” Ridley said in a statement.” Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are – and will remain – devoted to developing the game and celebrating its many virtues.”

Martin Slumbers, CEO of the Royal & Ancient (R&A), welcomed the announcement. The R&A governs golf outside of the United States and Mexico and oversees The Open Championship in July. Slumbers would have been set to host defending champion Cam Smith of LIV in a field loaded with PGA Tour players – including third-place finisher in 2022, Rory McIlroy – and DP Tour players.

“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached which will help men’s professional golf move forward in a collaborative, constructive and innovative fashion,” Slumbers said. “We care deeply about golf’s future and are committed to ensuring that the sport continues to thrive for many years to come. This agreement represents a huge step toward achieving that goal for golf and we look forward to working with the new entity for the benefit of the sport globally.”

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