Yesterday, (Friday) I was reminded it was Easter this weekend and for some reason I thought it was a week away. It was moments later that I realized that next week is actually Masters Week...in my world, the best week of the year.
But for as much as I love the Masters, I'm just now thinking about it, which means I have some work to do on checking out the field, getting set up for my Masters picks, and prepping for the annual Masters menu!
Before looking ahead, I just wanted to share a few thoughts & memories.
First, I'm smiling right now thinking about my first trip to Arizona, staying with a friend's family and it was Masters & Easter weekend...it was the absolute best.
Next, I'm thinking about the catalog of amazing golf shots that happened all over Augusta National over many years. We all have our favorites, and mine include Phil and Freddie.
I'm also thinking about friends who have made the sacred journey to Augusta. I never get tired of the stories and photos. Someday I hope my feet will find their way there, too.
A smile comes to my face to visualize azaleas, pine straw, Rae's Creek, patrons, and that green jacket.
The Masters in November was both wonderful and weird...but it was so awesome to see Dustin Johnson join the elite list of Master's champions. What will he have in store for us next week?
I took my first look at the field this evening, looked through the Golf Digest ranking of all entrants, and realized that I have been out of touch on some talented PGA Tour players! My favorite thing to look at each year is the Invitee List that shows how each player qualified for the field. There are 19 ways to get a Master's Invite, and 37 out of the current 88 invitees are in the field because of 1 qualifier, and of those, eleven (11) are playing because they already have a green jacket. There are currently 16 past winners who have opted not to play at August National next week, including the recovering Tiger Woods.
Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson met 7 of the 19 qualifiers to join the Masters Field this week. Some final fun facts...there are 3 amateurs playing as well as only 6 first time invitees (including the 3 amateurs).
So who does Golf Digest rank as the top 3 players? Number 3 is Jordan Spieth, which is great to see after some time of struggle. Bryson DeChambeau is ranked #2 by Golf Digest (ranked #5 on the OWGR), and comes into the field with 6 qualifiers, including being a Major Champion. The top ranked player (by Golf Digest standards), is Justin Thomas. I'm a big JT fan and would love to see him in Butler Cabin next Sunday. As the #2 player in the world right now, it's probably right to say the Masters is his to lose.
I would suspect some would think that Dustin Johnson would have been the favorite, and I'm not sure there's much difference at the highest level. Pretty sure DJ is more than ready to defend.
A few surprises on the Golf Digest list were: Rory McIlroy was ranked #23, and it was noted that for the first time in 3 years he is out of the Top Ten on the World Ranking. Number 30 is Brooks Koepka, and being out of the loop, I didn't know he had knee surgery last month. He's currently in the field, but there is some question on his healing and level of pain he will be in. I was surprised to see Harris English at #40...I didn't realize that due to a set of circumstances he landed at the Tournament of Champions by way of the Tour Championship and then won the TOC. Just a few years ago English was 369 on the OWGR, and now has risen to 21st. It would be neat to see him in the mix.
I can't end without talking about some of my favorites...first of course is Phil Mickelson. Yep, he's not a top pick and he's (gulp) 106th in the world, but dang it, my heart will be cheering him on all week. Then there's Matt Kuchar. (Go Matt!) Kuch has the Georgia roots and a 3rd Place finish at the match play last week that makes me excited about this chances. He'd look great in a green jacket! Justin Rose might be considered "the other Justin" but I love that he loves the Masters and I'm a fan! He's been holding out with some back issues, so hopefully Augusta will be kind.
When you hear Masters week and you automatically think "best week of the year", I hope you find the same joy I do.
Close your eyes, hear the birds, visualize the azaleas, feel the sun, and get ready to cheer. Masters Week is almost here!!!
It's here, it's here!! I don't know about you, but I've been waiting quite awhile for this week to arrive. I try not to get too excited too early, but this year just feels like there's going to be some great golf and all kinds of players in the mix.
As I'm sure you might have read, one player who won't be in the mix is Tiger Woods. There had been speculation for months on whether he'd be teeing it up or not, but I saw the Tweets that told us he'd be at the Champions dinner but would not be playing.
If you haven't browsed the field yet, you should!
You can find it here: www.masters.com/en_US/players/player_list.html
There are currently 93 players in the field with a chance for someone to punch their ticket to Augusta with a win at the Shell Houston Open.
Not just anyone can get into the Masters...players are invited based on a list of 19 qualifications. The number one criteria is Past Champion. There are 18 past champions currently in the field, 11 of which are playing based solely on their Past Champion status. This is a lifetime invitation!
Other Major Winners receive a 5-year invitation, and this year will be the last year for 2012 British Open Champion Ernie Els, unless he can find another qualification for 2018. Els is currently the 409th ranked player in the world, so it seems his best bet is to finish in the Top 12 at Augusta or in the Top 4 at another Major this year. I'm rooting for him!
All full FedEx Cup points PGA Tournament winners get an invite and there are 9 players heading to the Masters with this as their only qualification...players include, James Hahn, Charley Hoffman, MacKenzie Hughes, Billy Hurley III, Rod Pampling, Pat Perez, Brendan Steele, Brian Stuard, and Hudson Swafford.
Being the Top 50 on the World Golf Ranking (OWGR) gets you an invite, too! Top 50 at the end of 2016 plus, Top 50 the week before the Masters. Four players moved into the Top 50 in 2017 to get their invite...Jeunghun Wang, Hideto Tanihara, Tommy Fleetwood, and Ross Fisher played their way in, with Fleetwood moving from 99th at the end of 2016 to 33rd this past week.
I can't believe I waited this long to bring up my favorite player...Steve Stricker!! Stricker is back at Augusta because of his Top 4 finish at the British Open last year. The only other player making it to the Masters based on a Top 4 finish alone was Daniel Summerhays, who finished 3rd in the PGA Championship last year by carding a -4 (66) in his final round. Summerhays (who I didn't know much about) earned his PGA Tour Card in 2011 and has improved on the money list each year since, earning just over $2 million in 2016, but he's going to need some inspiration this week only making 6 cuts in 11 events so far this season.
A neat thing about the Masters invitee criteria list is that there are 5 qualifications for Amateurs...Amateur Curtis Luck from Australia qualified as the US Amateur and Asia-Pacific Amateur champion...I'm thinking he might be worth watching!
While some players made it based on 1 qualification, there were 3 golfers who made it by qualifying in 7 different categories. Can you guess? They are: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlory, and Jason Day, with Spieth the only one with a Masters win.
There are currently 18 invitees coming for the first time - can you imagine??!! Amazing! Will we have another qualifying because of a win at the Shell Houston Open?
Regardless of how they qualified, each one of the invitees is in for a week full of challenges, opportunities, and memories. I can't wait to watch it all!!
(More Masters thoughts coming soon!)
I love golf and I love to write, so I can't think of anything better than having a happy place like this to write about golf to my heart's content. Thanks for joining me!