Joaquin Niemann was invited to the 2024 Masters after competing

Joaquin Niemann was invited to the 2024 Masters after competing outside of LIV

Joaquin Niemann's move to LIV Golf prevented him from automatically qualifying for the Masters, but he received a special invitation to the 2024 tournament on Wednesday after competing outside the Saudi-backed league in the offseason.

Chilean-born Niemann, Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Japan's Ryo Hisatsune accepted special invitations to take part in the tournament, Masters chairman Fred Ridley said on Wednesday.

“The Masters Tournament has a long tradition of inviting leading international players who are not otherwise qualified,” Ridley said. “Today’s announcement represents the tournament’s continued commitment to stimulating interest in the game of golf around the world. We look forward to welcoming every player to Augusta National this spring.”

Since joining LIV in 2022, Niemann had fallen out of the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking – a ranking that would have qualified him for a Masters invitation – because golfers do not receive OWGR points at LIV tournaments.

At the time of his move to LIV, Niemann was the highest-ranked player in the world under the age of 25. He was 23 years old, ranked 18th in the official world golf rankings and felt like an inevitable young big winner. It was the perfect coup for LIV. A player who could prove what the breakaway league had to offer was worth the risk of what he was giving up – the possibility of missing out on major tournament appearances unless LIV could secure a path to OWGR points.

Augusta's decision to extend an invitation to the 2024 field is evidence, at least in Niemann's case, that there can always be exceptions. The 25-year-old Niemann is ranked No. 81 in the world, but his place in the tournament makes for a better field, so Augusta wants him in the field.

Previously, Niemann spent 155 weeks of his career in the world top 50, including a peak of No. 15.

Niemann's long relationship with the Masters probably helps. He won the 2018 Latin American Amateur Championship and received an invitation to the 2018 Masters. He played in each of the last three iterations and finished a career-best T16 last year. He was in the top 10 entering the weekend after a 71-69 start.

Niemann had tried by all means to earn an invitation on his own. The 25-year-old was among several LIV golfers who competed in International Series events to earn OWGR points. In November he competed in the Australian PGA, co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, hoping a win would catapult him into the world's top 50 to secure a spot. He came fifth.

However, Niemann won the Australian Open in December, which, according to Augusta's press release, had enough weight to warrant an invitation, and he finished in the top five in each of his three starts on the DP World Tour this season. Niemann's appearance at LIV – including a win at Mayakoba this month – was not mentioned.

This partly explains why Augusta National did not invite Talor Gooch, a three-time LIV winner from last season. Gooch's only non-LIV appearances since last year's Masters have been the PGA Championship (Cut), the Open Championship (Cut), Alfred Dunhill Links (WD) and the Hong Kong Open (T42).

Niemann was the only LIV golfer to receive a special Masters invitation. Other LIV players among the 83 invited so far include defending champion Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Cameron Smith and Bubba Watson.

Players can still qualify by winning an upcoming PGA Tour event that awards full points or by ranking among the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is released a week before the tournament.

This week, Niemann is among the group of 21 LIV golfers (out of 54 in the league) competing in the Asian Tour's International Series in Oman.

As for Augusta's other invites, the 34-year-old Olesen has won twice on the DP World Tour in the last 12 months and will be making his third career Masters appearance, his first since 2019. He finished T6 in his debut in 2013.

Hisatsune, 21, is one of the most exciting young players in the world. Since September, he has won the Cazoo Open de France on the European Tour, finished T6 at the Zozo Championship, achieved six more top-25 finishes on the European Tour and finished T11 at the American Express. The Masters will be Hisatsune's major championship debut.

The 2024 Masters will take place from April 11th to 14th.

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(Photo: Sam Navarro / USA Today)