Two-time Masters champ worried about tension with LIV Golf players at Augusta

Two-time Masters champion and golf legend Ben Crenshaw admitted to Golf Channel that he was worried that the presence of LIV Golfers could detract from the tournament at Augusta.

Matt Chivers's picture
Sat, 7 Jan 2023
Two-time Masters champ "worried about" tension with LIV Golf players at Augusta

Two-time Masters champion and golf legend Ben Crenshaw admitted his deep concern at the tension and awkwardness that LIV Golf players could bring to Augusta National in 2023.

Speaking to Eamon Lynch and Damon Hack on Golf Today, Crenshaw hoped that the focus at the Masters Champions Dinner would be on Scottie Scheffler and on the tournament for the rest of the week in April.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia will all be eligible to attend the past champions' meal, joining the likes of Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Joaquin Niemann in the field too.

On December 20, Augusta confirmed that their criteria wouldn't be altered for the 2023 event, but modifications to invitation criteria could be announced in April.

Crenshaw, 70, won the Green Jacket in 1984 and 1995 and his primary aim for the week is to honour Scheffler, who won his maiden major title on the hallowed turf by three shots last year.

"I don't know what's going to happen, our job is to honour the champion, Scottie Scheffler, not only for winning the tournament but what an unbelievably wonderful career and the year he had last year," Crenshaw said.

"(He) Emerged as one of the best players in the world, our job is to honour him. It's his night and each of us has earned a lifetime exemption into that tournament, but our job is to honour the current champion, Scottie.

"I sure hope not (a circus), it's a tournament in which the champion can change his whole life, it's a life-giving memory, no doubt about that. But I hope the focus is on the champion and the tournament, but I don't know. I've been worried about it, I must be honest."

Crenshaw, also a 19-time winner on the PGA Tour, spoke in a sad tone to Lynch and Hack about the current state of professional golf, disliking "breakups of relationships" and the new focus on prize money.

LIV Golf held eight events in 2022. In the first seven, there was $25 million in prize money on offer and up to $4.75 million for the tournament winner (if they also won the team format in that week too).

As a result of the emerging Saudi-backed series, the PGA Tour introduced a revamped Elevated Event schedule for the new season, with an average $20 million pot at each one.

Having also expanded the money pool of the Player Impact Program, commissioner Jay Monahan made key changes to nail down the best players in the world to the American circuit.

Crenshaw complemented the role that players like Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have taken in the last 12 months, verbally supporting the Tour and playing significant roles in decision-making. 

"You can probably imagine how I feel. I owe my life to golf. I don't like what's going on. I must be honest. I don't like to see breakups of relationships that have been combined over a long period of time," Crenshaw added.

"I happen to think that there are things in golf and in life that are more important than money. I have a lifetime of friendships and memories that will last me - but I just don't like it.

"Golf, so far, has stayed above a lot of things that have been disruptive to the game, but I don't like what's going on. I wish it were different but we're seeing it played out in a game that I've loved and a lot of people have loved.

"I think the best competition is on the PGA Tour, no questions about that. I think we've seen great leadership - Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy - I can't applaud them enough. I just hate that these relationships are torn, I don't like that at all.

"I think, in my view, money has eclipsed a lot of other things that make golf what is it around the world. It means a lot to a lot of people - it has nothing to do with the monetary side.

"Competition is first and foremost, you've got a four-round competition on the PGA Tour and you feel like you're playing against the best, against a different format - yes it has a lot to do with money which skews a lot of people's opinion."