LIV Golf's Niemann among trio invited to play Masters

WASHINGTON: LIV golfer Joaquin Niemann has accepted a special invitation to play the Masters along with Japan's Ryo Hisatsune and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen, Augusta National said Wednesday.

Chile's Niemann said after his victory in the LIV season-opener in Mexico – where he shot a first-round 59 – that he hoped to have a chance to contend in majors even though his world ranking has dropped because LIV events don't carry world ranking points.

He was already qualified for the British Open thanks to his victory in the Australian Open in December, and Masters officials cited that Australian triumph in announcing they had extended an invitation to the 25-year-old to play in a fifth Masters.

"The Masters Tournament has a long-standing tradition of inviting leading international players who are not otherwise qualified," Masters chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement.

"Today's announcement represents the tournament's continued commitment towards developing interest in the game of golf across the world."

Niemann, who first played the Masters in 2018 as the top ranked amateur in the world, has made the cut in three of four Masters appearances.

He has top-five finishes in each of his three European Tour starts this season, including his playoff win in the Australian Open.

With LIV golfers still banned from the US PGA Tour Niemann has used European Tour events to try to bolster his ranking, which now stands at 81st – outside the top 50 that will automatically qualify for the Masters.

Hisatsune, 21, is ranked 78th. He spent a year on the Japan Golf Tour before qualifying for the European Tour, where he won the French Open and finished high enough in the Race to Dubai to earn a place on the US PGA Tour.

He's the first Japanese player to be named the European Tour's rookie of the year.

Olesen is an eight-time winner on the European Tour. He has played in three previous Masters, but this will be his first since he was cleared in December 2021 of charges of sexually assaulting a woman on a transatlantic flight.

A London court cleared him of charges of shoving an airline worker, touching a woman's breast and urinating on another passenger's seat, actions he said he couldn't remember after taking sleeping medication with alcohol.

The three invitations bring the field to 83 players. Golfers can still qualify by winning one of the seven remaining PGA Tour events before the Masters, which will be held April 11-14.

The top 50 in the world golf rankings as of April 1 will also qualify.--AFP

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