Masters offers special invitation to LIV golfer Joaquin Niemann

Joaquin Niemann - Masters offers special invitation to LIV golfer Joaquin Niemann
Joaquin Niemann (right) has dropped down the world rankings since switching from the PGA Tour in 2022, with no points available at LIV Golf - Getty Images/Manuel Velasquez

Joaquin Niemann is set to become the first LIV golfer to play in one of the four majors by special invitation after the Augusta National included him among three discretionary picks for the Masters.

Niemann, the Chilean former world No 1 amateur, had expressed concern that he might miss the majors after competing in LIV Golf events and seeing his world ranking drop outside the top 50 that automatically qualify.

LIV Golf events do not carry world ranking points but, in a surprise move that will surely hearten LIV, Niemann has joined Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune, the European tour rookie of the year, and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen in being invited to Augusta in April.

“The Masters tournament has a long-standing tradition of inviting leading international players who are not otherwise qualified,” said Fred Ridley, the chair of the Augusta National Golf Club. “Today’s announcement represents the tournament’s continued commitment towards developing interest in the game of golf across the world. We look forward to welcoming each player to Augusta National this spring.”

After beating Sergio Garcia in a play-off at the LIV Golf Opener in Mexico three weeks ago, Niemann said that he wanted “to win majors, but I’ve got to get in first” in reference to how his ranking has fallen.

Niemann is the only player from the Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf to have received a Masters invitation and only the second golfer in any major after Paul Casey was invited last year to the USPGA before being forced out with injury.

The decision follows Niemann’s victory in the Australian Open in December – which guaranteed his place in the Open at Royal Troon this summer – and his willingness to play tournaments outside LIV Golf in an effort to gain ranking points.

There is no Masters place, however, for the American Talor Gooch, who has won three times in LIV Golf events since the 2023 Masters and won the LIV Order of Merit last year.

American Talor Gooch
No Masters invitation for American Talor Gooch - Getty Images/Michael Reaves

Niemann, who was tied for 16th in the Masters last year, was ranked in the world’s top 20 when he joined LIV Golf in September 2022 but is now 81st on the list.

“It kind of hurt me a little bit not being in the majors and I think also helped me to get motivation to kind of earn my spot back into the majors, into the elite players,” Niemann said earlier this month.

It is only the 15th time that the Masters has awarded special invitations to players since 1999, when it first began using the world rankings as part of its criteria, and it has not offered three invitations in a year since 2008.

Augusta National typically awards the special invitation to players who do not have the same access as PGA Tour players, who can qualify through winning or getting to the Tour Championship.

The invitations bring the current Masters field to 83 players. The only other way for players to now qualify is to win one of the seven PGA Tour events before the Masters or to climb into the world’s top 50 before April.