Was Wednesday the end of the beginning for Bubba Watson, or the beginning of the end?
On one hand, the two-time major champ made his debut as a LIV competitor at the upstart league’s fourth event in Boston, beginning his new career on golf’s controversial new tour. On the other, Watson cemented his own suspension from the PGA Tour, and brought into question his eligibility for some of golf’s biggest events.
For many like Watson, the juice is worth the squeeze; the Saudi-backed upstart league offers one final, massive payday for a group of players who have already seen many of golf’s greatest venues and experienced many of the sport’s greatest highs. But that decision comes with a series of consequences, none of which could be larger than the major championships and the Ryder Cup.
There aren’t many clear answers about where LIV golfers stand with golf’s biggest events. It remains to be seen whether the Official World Golf Ranking will accept LIV’s application for inclusion, a decision that will either solidify the new league’s standing and all but guarantee access for its players into the major championships — or significantly endanger that effort.
There is some skepticism as to whether LIV will earn inclusion in the OWGR, particularly considering that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is among those on the board of directors responsible for voting on LIV’s application. But as far as Watson is concerned, the decision should be a no-brainer.
“The No. 2 player in the world is now here,” he told reporters Wednesday. “So if you’re going to try to see the best players in the world, then you should have World Ranking points because these are the best players in the world here, just like everywhere else across the world.
“If you’re going to say you’re competing against the best, you’ve got to have a World Ranking system.”
But nobody outside the gates of Augusta National, not even the OWGR’s board members, can decide who earns an invitation to the Masters. The only invitational among golf’s majors, Augusta National possesses cart blanche control over who competes every year. Of course, Augusta National has operated under certain rules for years, guaranteeing groups like PGA Tour winners and past champions a spot on the tournament field. Still, the Masters has the freedom to invite who it pleases, and in much the same vein, the freedom to ignore those it doesn’t.
Could that mean Augusta National might ban LIV players — either directly or indirectly — from competing in the Masters? It could. (According to a lawsuit filed by LIV players earlier this month, Augusta National representatives “threatened to disinvite players” from the 2022 Masters if they joined LIV Golf.) It’s a reality Watson, a two-time Masters champion himself, has been forced to address, if not one he’s happy about.
“I told my kids that there is a chance, there is a possibility that we can’t go to Augusta,” he said. “I told them, if they tell me that I can’t go, being a past champion, then I don’t want to be there anyway because that’s just the wrong way to look at it. It’s the game of golf. We are all trying to be the best players.”
Ultimately, Augusta’s looming decision leaves Watson in a strange place. His future as a pro golfer — where he can and can’t play — is in question, and for the first time ever, the outcome is out of his hands.
“It’s a weird situation, being a Masters champion,” he said. “Augusta, right now, we can play in it, and I’m hoping, and praying, that they make the right decisions and past champions and people, we can all start playing.”