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Ben Crenshaw 'a Little Concerned' About Masters Champions Dinner, With LIV Golf Represented for First Time

Six past champions are LIV members and other champions have been outspoken in recent weeks about the Saudi-backed league.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ben Crenshaw no longer competes in the Masters Tournament but he still has an important role this week at Augusta National.

Crenshaw presides over the annual Champions Dinner as sort of a de-facto host, setting the tone for the proceedings in which only past champions and club chairman Fred Ridley are invited.

Given some of the angst that exists between golfers who have jumped to the LIV Golf League and those who remain on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, Crenshaw’s duties are perhaps a bit more complicated this time.

“I’m a little concerned to be honest," Crenshaw said Sunday at Augusta National, where he played the course on the last day it is open to members and their guests. “I’m not sure what is going to happen. I’m expecting that cooler heads will prevail and everything will be fine."

Crenshaw said he has a plan to kick-off the festivities, which he’s been a part of since 1985 when he hosted the dinner for the first time after his 1984 Masters victory. Crenshaw, who won 19 times on the PGA Tour, also won the Masters in 1995. He began his unofficial host role in 2005.

Perhaps adding another wrinkle of awkwardness are the recent comments by three-time champion Gary Player, who told the Times of London that he is frustrated by his inability to play the course with family members, among other things.

The Champions Dinner—or officially the Masters Club Dinner—was first held in 1952 at the behest of Ben Hogan, who won the tournament the year prior and wanted to use it as a way to “reminisce, swap banter and relax."

The tradition has continued with the defending champion selecting the menu.

Fred Couples, 63, who won the Masters in 1992, recently referred to past champions and LIV golfers Phil Mickelson as a “nutbag" and Sergio Garcia as a “clown."

“Just go to the LIV Tour, but stop blasting something I’ve been a part of for 42 years," Couples said.

Earlier this year, Tiger Woods was asked what he thought the Masters would be like as it relates to the LIV Golf aspect.

“I know that some of our friendships have certainly taken a different path, but we’ll see when that all transpires," he said.

Asked specifically about the dinner, hosted by defending champion Scottie Scheffler, Woods said: “The Champions Dinner is going to be obviously something that’s talked about. We as a whole need to honor Scottie, Scottie’s the winner, it’s his dinner.

“So making sure that Scottie gets honored correctly but also realizing the nature of what has transpired and the people that have left, just where our situations are legally, emotionally, there’s a lot there."

LIV Golf has sued the PGA Tour for restraint of trade and the Tour has since countersued.

There are six past champions who are expected at the dinner who now play for LIV Golf: Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010), Charl Schwartzel (2011), Bubba Watson (2012, 2014), Garcia (2017) Patrick Reed (2018) and Dustin Johnson (2020).

Crenshaw, 71, traveled to Augusta on Sunday from his home in Texas with wife, Julie, and their family. Starting in 1972 as an amateur, Crenshaw played the Masters 44 straight years through 2015.

In addition to his two victories, Crenshaw also had nine other top-10 finishes in the tournament. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.