LIV Golf Invitational - Mayakoba - Day Three
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There has been a noisy and sometimes contentious debate bubbling up with Joaquin Niemann in the center. Niemann, who won the Australian Open in December and LIV Golf's Makaykoba event earlier this month, has become a sort of lightning rod for both LIV supporters and PGA Tour advocates.

Those on the LIV side have been yelling from the rooftops that Niemann should be invited to the major championships. In fact, the first thought on Niemann's mind after beating Sergio Garcia at Mayakoba was, "I'm not in the majors." The implication was clear: I'm playing well enough to be included, and the majors should not penalize me for my league not receiving Official World Golf Rankings points.

It's a fair stance that has recently gained strength amid the defections of Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton to LIV. Rahm brings a gravity to the league that it did not previously possess, and no matter how you feel about guaranteed contracts or OWGR points, it's difficult to ignore a player who is regularly beating Rahm, Hatton, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

Those on the other side of the aisle were perhaps even louder, invoking the famous Don Draper GIF from "Mad Men:" That's what the money is for.

That's also a fair stance. Despite what players were promised, they knew the deal when they signed up for LIV. They knew they were leaving the protection of the PGA Tour and its pathways to the major championships through OWGR points, instead seeking massive guaranteed contracts and the possibility of maybe getting OWGR points in the future.

That is, indeed, what the money is for.

On Wednesday, though, Augusta National Golf Club bypassed the OWGR and invited Niemann to play in the 2024 Masters.

It was not an unprecedented move. ANGC has a long history of inviting international players who are thriving on various tours but may not have pathways to playing in the first major of the year. Thorbjorn Olesen and Ryo Hisatsune were invited alongside Niemann despite neither being otherwise qualified.

By inviting Niemann, Augusta National again rose above all the nonsense and noise, reminding everyone that -- in a bitter and contentious time for professional golf -- the only true winners have been the four major championship organizations. When the regular season of golf experiences turmoil, the endurance of these four events shines through.

As we surmised in 2022, when the majors became the only place in golf where all the best players could play one another, it is even more true now as the landscape has been further divded.

Here's the interesting part, though: By inviting Niemann, Augusta National is not taking a side. It is simply trying to put together the best tournament possible, which again, pops even more in a fractured world than it does in one that is unified.

It is certainly not taking the PGA Tour's side, saying, Well, Niemann slid all the way to No. 81 in the world, and that's outside the requisite top 50 we normally invite. Sorry. But it's not taking LIV's side, either. As No Laying Up pointed out, LIV was not mentioned once in the release about Niemann's invite to the Masters.

Niemann, 25, is set to appear in his fifth Masters, where he has made the cut in three of his first four tournaments, including a career best T16 in 2023. He has top five finishes in each of his three DP World Tour starts this season, including winning the Australian Open in a playoff last December. Niemann's first Masters came in 2018 while he was the reigning Latin America Amateur champion and the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world.

There is history between Niemann and Augusta National that pre-dates LIV, and the Chilean's victory at the Australian Open only improved his case. In this instance, there were reasons outside Niemann's LIV performances to invite him to Augusta, Georgia. 

Niemann is playing great golf and unquestionably deserves this Masters opportunity. After all, success should be awarded in sports. He attempted to elevate himself into the top 50 of the OWGR by playing in Australia on the DP World Tour at the end of 2023, and despite winning, he fell just short of that mark.

As the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf fracas rages, the majors should continue to recognize their unique standing in the game and ability to put together the best fields possible. If that means inviting LIV players who are inside the top 30 in the Data Golf rankings (Niemann is currently No. 22!), then so be it. It adds validity to the majors, maintains their prestige and makes all the other nonsense look even sillier. 

In a world where it seems like both leagues are losing because of the divide, the majors feel more elevated and important than ever.