Masters urged to bar LIV golfers by group representing families of 9/11 victims

‘The only reason the Saudis launched LIV was to try to make the world forget who they are and what they did’

Players from the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour will be eligible to compete in the 2023 Masters if they meet the established qualifying criteria. Photograph Justin Lane/EPA

A group representing victims’ families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States has called on the Masters to reconsider its decision not to ban LIV Golf players from competing in April.

9/11 Families United, which has previously written to agents of several American LIV players to express their outrage at them competing in the Saudi-funded events, has pledged to protest at Augusta National if the policy is not reversed.

The PGA Tour has suspended members who have competed in the breakaway competition without permission, while the DP World Tour fined players £100,000 and banned them from the Genesis Scottish Open, but saw that temporarily stayed on appeal.

LIV Golf defectors eligible for 2023 MastersOpens in new window ]

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said in July that banning LIV players from next year’s British Open was “not on the agenda”, but did not rule out changing the championship’s entry criteria.


Masters chairman Fred Ridley took a similar stance on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the entry criteria for 2023 would remain the same, with any possible future changes announced in April.

Former Masters champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson are among the top players to have joined LIV, while others who remain inside the world’s top 50 – despite LIV not currently being allowed to award ranking points – will still be eligible to compete at Augusta National.

Ridley’s statement read: “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.

“It provides a stage for fans to experience dramatic moments of competition at the highest level and promotes the sport domestically and abroad. Through the years, legends of the game have competed and won at Augusta National Golf Club.

“Champions like Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have become heroes to golfers of all ages.

“They have inspired some to follow in their footsteps and so many others to play and enjoy the game. They have supported the sport and, thus, all who benefit from it. They have shown respect for those who came before them and blazed a trail for future generations. Golf is better because of them.

“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. As we have said in the past, we look at every aspect of the Tournament each year, and any modifications or changes to invitation criteria for future Tournaments will be announced in April.

“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.”

Ridley’s statement drew an angry response from 9/11 Families United, who pointed out in their letter to the agents of Mickelson, Johnson, Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na in June that “Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis.”

Tuesday’s statement from the organisation read: “In the aftermath of 9/11, our country agreed we would never forget that horrible day. The only reason the Saudis launched LIV was to try to make the world forget who they are and what they did, including their role in 9/11.

“Anyone who truly vowed to ‘never forget’ should be appalled by the decision by these golfers to put money ahead of their own country.

“On behalf of 9/11 Families United, we are calling on Augusta National to reconsider their open-door policy to the LIV golfers. If they are welcomed with open arms, we will be at their front door to protest in April.”