John Daly's holiday mail will not include an invitation from Augusta National Golf Club. Augusta's Charles Howell will.
Daly's surge in the world rankings, from No. 507 at the beginning of the year to as high as No. 47 last week, took a slight dip at the worst possible time.
He dropped five spots, which put him out of the top 50 - and out of the Masters.
Among the qualifications for golf's most exclusive major championship is to be ranked in the top 50 at the end of the year. The only tournament remaining that counts toward the ranking is this week in South Africa, and that won't affect players on the bubble.
That's good news for Augusta native Howell, whose world rank of No. 45 assures his dream of playing in his hometown tournament. In his first full season as a professional, Howell earned more than $1.5 million despite not having his PGA Tour card.
One of the nation's top-ranked players as a junior, Howell won the NCAA Championship in 2000 while at Oklahoma State and then turned pro before completing his collegiate career.
Howell went to Australia on Thanksgiving week to safeguard his ranking, Daly took a different approach and suffered the consequences.
The final world ranking of the year will be published next week.
"It was an unusual combination of factors," John Mascatello, Daly's agent at SFX Sports, said Tuesday. "Everything conspired against him."
First, Jose Maria Olazabal went from No. 58 to No. 47 by winning the Hong Kong Open on Sunday. Adam Scott finished third and moved up three spots to No. 49 to secure his first appearance in the Masters.
The biggest reason is a change in the world ranking system three months ago.
Instead of points losing half their value after one year, a new sliding scale reduces the value by one-eighth every 13 weeks during a two-year period.
Daly won the BMW International Open in Germany in September, his first victory since the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews. That was 13 weeks ago, so he ended up losing 5.25 points in the latest ranking. He also will take a slight hit because he tied for fourth a week later in the Canadian Open.
Daly had planned to play the Asian Open and Hong Kong Open but bailed out because of concerns over international travel.
"If he had played and got his average results in Asia, such as a fourth place and an eighth place, he'd still be up there," said Matt Bouchel of IMG, who administers the world rankings in London. "You're assisting yourself if you're playing, especially if you're on the bubble."
Mascatello said he was under the impression that those two events would not count toward the rankings because they are part of the 2002 European tour schedule.
Daly was not immediately available for comment. He was recording a song in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, and Mascatello was not sure whether Daly knew about his drop in the rankings.
Daly still has hope.
The final qualification for the Masters is top 50 in the world ranking on March 11, the Monday after the Honda Classic, or the top three on the PGA Tour money list after the Honda.
Steve Flesch also fell out of the top 50 this week, dropping one spot to No. 51.
Bouchel said the only Masters-related change next week will affect Toru Taniguchi of Japan, who is No. 53 this week but will move into the top 50 and get an invitation to Augusta.
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