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!