By Leigh MacKay

The worldwide anticipation of the 2024 Masters is rapidly escalating with the year’s first major less than a week away. Even the LIV Golf Miami event this week has been a spawning ground for Augusta National speculation, especially since places 1-4 went to LIV players last year: Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, and Patrick Reed.

With 13 LIV players participating in this year’s Masters—seven former champs and six invitees—the question was asked Wednesday at the Trump Doral press conference before six players in the Masters field, “What are the chances of a LIV member taking home the Green Jacket next week?”

Identification of 13 LIV players at Masters, seven champions (C) and six invitees (I): Back Row: Bryson DeChambeau (I), Jon Rahm (C), Bubba Watson (C), Dustin Johnson (C), Phil Mickelson (C), Brooks Koepka (I), Adrian Meronk (I). Front Row: Tyrrell Hatton (I), Charl Schwartzel (C), Sergio Garcia (C), Patrick Reed (C), Joaquin Niemann (I), Cameron Smith (I). (Photo by Victoria MacKay)

Defending victor Jon Rahm, who is the host of this year’s Champions’ Dinner, stated, “That is a very hard question to answer. But you know, there are quite a few major champions in LIV, and there are more than a few that are major champion quality golfers. So, in just pure numbers, if you go with the math, we might not have the highest percentage chance, but I’m confident that one of us can get it done this year.”

Two-time Green Jacket winner, 2012 and 2014, Bubba Watson said, “An LIV winner is about a 13 percent possibility. Yes, I mean, there’s some great golf being played out here on the LIV Tour, as well as some great golf being played on the other tours. So, it’s going to be a battle but, you know, at the end of the day, that’s an individual battle. So, we are pulling for our friends no matter where they play, but it’s going to be a battle and, hopefully, it is a LIV player because I’m one of those that’s up there at the top. And I want to be in that top five or challenging on Sunday.”

Photo by Victoria MacKay.

Three-time champ, 2004 and 2006 and 2010, Phil Mickelson waxed nostalgic and optimistic. “I obviously love the place. It’s a course where I feel I don’t have to be perfect. When I go through the gates and drive down Magnolia Lane, I relax a little bit because if we miss it on the correct side of the hole, given the pin placement, we can still salvage par utilizing our short games. “We have shots—like the shot Bubba hit in the playoff when he really had to hook a wedge—where you can still be creative and recover at Augusta. I think it’s so fun to watch the recovery shots because they are so exciting. I think that adds to a lot of the drama of Augusta. If I play the course strategically, know how to play it, and know where to go, I don’t have to be perfect.”

Joaquin Niemann, who had to play outside LIV and win the Australian Open and get a T-4 in Dubai to finish near the top 50 in the World Rankings, received a special invitation and intends to make the most of it. He said, “It’s been a good start to my year. I have enjoyed playing Augusta National the last couple years, but I haven’t had a really good result yet. But I am certainly looking forward to it. If I keep playing the way I have been, I know I’m going to have a good chance to win. I’m going to be excited to get there and play good golf. Here on LIV, many of these guys have won a few Masters already. It’s nice to be around them and to play against them. It’s very good for me.”

Photo by Victoria MacKay

2019 and 2023 runner-up and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka minced no words. He said, “Yeah, I like our chances. A lot of these guys are playing so well. Especially Joacquin. I have watched him progress for eight months now, and he has started to turn the corner. And, for me, I don’t know, I have usually started playing well in March. This is kind of my time.” 2020 US Open champ Bryson DeChambeau tried not to look past Trump Doral and his weekend in Miami. He said, “I want to make sure that I am ready for next week because it’s a major. But I still want to win this week. To be honest, as much as I’d like to try and elevate my emotions for Augusta, I have to control those emotions for the next few days. I realize and
respect what the Masters is, but I have to focus on each and every day I play and do the best I can possibly do on that day and, hopefully, it accumulates to playing really good golf over the next two weeks. That’s my mindset right now.”

The Masters’ field is set at 88 players, and the 2024 champion will be slipping on his own Green Jacket the afternoon of Sunday, April 14. We’ll see if that finery belongs to one of the lucky 13 players from the LIV Golf Tour.

Leigh MacKay

As a caddie, greenkeeper, and Ouimet Scholar from Marshfield Country Club on Boston’s South Shore, Leigh developed his love for the game at an early age. The BA from Amherst College and MA from Dartmouth prepared him for his 36-year career in education, most of it teaching Advanced Placement English and coaching varsity golf. In 1986, a sabbatical from teaching students to writing stories for “Golf World” magazine prepared him for his second career in golf journalism. Leigh is a low-handicap golfer who has won the Golf Writers Association of America’s championship seven times. He is currently a member of Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, and PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

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