Plenty of chances left for players to make Masters

Eighy-eight days.


That's all that left until the first round of the 73rd Masters Tournament starts. That means there's only 84 days remaining for the hundreds of golfers not-yet-qualified to complete their New Year's resolutions of earning an invitation to Augusta National Golf Club.

Players who often don't want to look beyond their next rounds are already talking about it. Some for months.

Davis Love III has been thinking about it for more than a year.

"That was my goal last year," Love said in December before the Father/Son Challenge. "To come in and have a really good six weeks, you know, keep my world ranking and be in the Masters and get myself on a roll for '08. Well, unfortunately I didn't get to play, so it was delayed a year."

Love started last season injured and missing the Masters ended a streak of 70 consecutive starts in major championships. Now he's in the same position again, trying to play his way into the season's first major. His 2008-ending victory at Disney didn't qualify him automatically, but it made Love one of 14 tournament winners in the 33-man field at the Mercedes-Benz Championships this week trying to find one of the remaining entrances into the Masters field.

"Obviously winning would get me into Kapalua," Love said of what was his 20th PGA Tour victory. "I got into Bridgestone and got myself in a position where I could play my way into a couple other of the World Golf Championships. I got some confidence back to try to get into the Masters. I got a lot accomplished."

Love is the most prominent of the 2008 PGA Tour winners still trying to punch his ticket to Augusta, but he's hardly alone.

J.B. Holmes won in Phoenix last winter, but despite being one of the heroes of September's U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup he's still not qualified to return to Augusta National. He's one of six players who won early-season tournaments before last year's Masters -- including former Louisville, Ga., resident Brian Gay -- but couldn't quite turn that into a top-30 finish on the money list, a spot in the Tour Championship or a top-50 year-end world ranking.

Two players reached Kapalua for winning opposite events that the Masters devalues -- Richard S. Johnson and Parker McLachlin. And there are six more, including Love, who won during the fall series but were not deemed Masters worthy.

That didn't stop potential Hall of Fame players like Love from giving it his best shot. Love used the series as a jump start for his 2009 goals.

"I had a lot of fun doing it," Love said of the six fall events he played that helped him climb to No. 77 in the world, 48th on the money list and earned him a lifetime tour exemption for winning his 20th event. "People were shocked, that here's a guy with his exempt status and his stature on tour out here playing six weeks in a row. But I needed to do it. I need to do it for my confidence and I needed to do it for my pride. I didn't want to use an exemption. I wanted to get back into the top 125 and get back in the winners category."

Love is a former winner and perennial contender at Kapalua, and he enters today's final round in contention. But he understands that if he doesn't win this week, there are still those 84 days and 13 other guaranteed qualifier events to make it back. He plans to play four or five tournaments on the West Coast, including another favorite event at Pebble Beach and two or three more in Florida.

"I need to come out and play like those six weeks," he said of his successful fall campaign. "I didn't really look at the leaderboards or the money list or the rankings. I just came out and played and tried to get my game in shape. I think certainly the guys that are 1 and 2 in the world rankings they don't look at their rankings. They just go out and play to win."

Even not winning doesn't mean that Augusta is out of reach for some of these players. Love saw how Justin Leonard -- another former major winner whose standing had slipped -- fought his way into the 2008 Masters field by playing consistently good golf and climbing into the top 50 in the world ranking before the final deadline, which this year falls the day after the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

"Justin did that last year and got off to a really good start -- a bunch of good finishes in the beginning got him in," Love said. "Even without winning, he won a fall series event and then he played good in the beginning of the year without winning a FedEx Cup event and got in the Masters. So we've got two different ways to get in, which is nice."

While one of those 14 Masters wannabes at Kapalua hopes to get the quest over with quickly just as Daniel Chopra did last year, the rest of the Augusta hopefuls will start their seasons as soon as this week on a different Hawaiian island. Native Augustan Charles Howell is in the first full-field event at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he kick-started his surge into the Masters field two years ago with a runner-up finish. Evans resident Vaughn Taylor will begin his own drive for a fourth consecutive appearance in his the Masters next week in California at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

But it doesn't take a qualifying carrot in front of players to get them to start thinking about Augusta this soon. Tiger Woods has been pointing to the Masters since shutting it down to undergo reconstructive knee surgery after winning last year's U.S. Open. And perfectly healthy players who don't have to sweat finding a way in are already counting down the days.

"I look forward to the next Masters from the moment I leave the course on Sunday," Kapaula 36-hole leader Geoff Ogilvy told Golf Magazine recently.

Only 88 days to go.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or

88 Days until the 2009 Masters Tournament

WORK TO DO: 2008 PGA Tour tournament winners not yet qualified for the 2009 Masters

- Cameron Beckman

- Daniel Chopra

- Brian Gay

- J.B. Holmes

- Dustin Johnson

- Richard S. Johnson

- Greg Kraft

- Davis Love III

- Steve Lowery

- Will MacKenzie

- Parker McLachlin

- Ryan Palmer

- Marc Turnesa

- Johnson Wagner



Michaux: The hard part could be behind Clemson

You can argue about style points and good fortune and "garbage" officiating, but you cannot argue with undefeated.

Clemson may be 8-0 by the... Read more

Sun, 10/30/2016 - 01:22

Michaux: Giving Georgia-Florida game a new nickname is bad idea

In these polarized times, it's hard for Americans to agree on anything.

However, even Florida and Georgia fans presented a unified front... Read more

Bryant, Young to be inducted into Augusta City Classic Hall of Fame

For 28 years, Clint Bryant has become such a fixture in so many parts of the Augusta community that you realize he's more than just the director... Read more

Michaux: Jeray keeps plugging away at golf career despite obstacles

Journeyman is not the first term any professional athlete wants to describe his or her career. Nobody chases a sporting dream to be defined as "... Read more