Jon Rahm of Spain speaks during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 09, 2023.
Jon Rahm of Spain speaks during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 09, 2023. AFP

The Masters stands as a defiantly conservative symbol of golf's traditions and values but even next week's showpiece at Augusta National will not be immune from the influence of the sport's all-consuming rupture.

The split in the professional game between the established PGA Tour and the start-up, Saudi-backed LIV Golf league has led to over two years of court cases, rancour and eye-watering contracts for players.

The committee men at Augusta National prefer the focus to be on the honour of competing for the green jacket and a place in history, with the commercial side of the game hidden well from sight.

Golf has been awash with talk of money ever since the Saudi Public Investment Fund began luring players away with their multi-million dollar contracts.

The response from the PGA Tour to the challenge from LIV has been to increase the prize money for their players, seek big money investment of their own and tinker with their tournament structure.

But hearing players on both tours constantly talking about cash and the sport's politics has been unedifying for many fans, some of whom have quite literally turned off.

"If you look at the TV ratings of the PGA Tour this year, they're down 20 percent across the board," said Rory McIlroy, who had played a prominent role in the tour's immediate, combative response to LIV but who has recently struck a more conciliatory tone.

"That's a fifth. That's big. I would say the numbers on LIV aren't great either in terms of the people tuning in. I just think with the fighting and everything that's went on over the past couple years, people are just getting really fatigued of it and it's turning people off men's professional golf, and that's not a good thing for anyone," the Northern Irishman added this week.

The Masters, the most watched of golf's four majors, will probably buck that trend, with the final round on Sunday a longstanding highlight of America's sporting calendar.

But that doesn't mean the 'golf wars' won't have an impact.

Last year's tournament was the first time that LIV players lined up against their former PGA Tour rivals at Augusta and while an informal 'ceasefire' appeared to be operating, the strong showing of LIV players became a prominent storyline.

LIV players Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson were in contention for the title and of the 18 'rebels' who teed it up, 12 made the cut and three finished in the top ten.

To the relief of the PGA Tour chiefs, Mickelson and Koepka ended tied for second with the tour's own star, Spaniard Jon Rahm, sliding on the green jacket.

Rahm is back to defend his title but to the chagrin of the tour he will do so as one of the 13-man LIV contingent after signing a deal in December reportedly worth between $300 million and $600 million.

So now a LIV player will host the traditional Champions Dinner on Tuesday night at the course's clubhouse.

Thankfully for those who will be present, the tension between the two camps has eased somewhat since the announcement of a merger framework between the tours in June and the halting of lawsuits.

Although there is little sign of real progress towards a merger, there has at least been an end to the rancorous public statements between players.

LIV golfers playing at their Miami event in Doral this week have talked optimistically about golf after the divide.

"I think we are in a transitional state where we now have competition and that's leading to a lot of disruption and change but it's also in the end product going to make golf more global where the best players travel more," said three-times Masters champion Mickelson.

"At some point when it gets ironed out, I think (golf) is going to be in a much better place...but right now, we are in the disruption phase...while we go through it, it's challenging. But we'll get there," he said.

Whether all the players are ready to join McIlroy and Mickelson in the new spirit of rapprochement remains to be seen but there are still likely to be plenty judging the form of the two camps as they tackle Amen Corner and the rest of the lush course in Georgia.

And however much it may be frowned on by the club's hierarchy, when golf's power brokers gather for an Azalea cocktail, the fallout from the Saudi arrival in golf will never be far from the conversation.