Originally created 11/27/02

Masters qualifications change



The Masters Tournament made sure the latest news from inside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club wasn't the least bit controversial.

On Tuesday, two weeks after Augusta National and Masters Tournament chairman Hootie Johnson said the club would not give in to demands by the National Council of Women's Organizations and admit a female member before the 2003 Masters, the club turned its focus to the 67th Masters in April.

Johnson announced the revision of two qualification changes for the 2003 Masters, which is scheduled for April 10-13.

The changes are expected to increase the size of the starting field, which numbered 88 in 2002.

The 10 leaders on the PGA Tour money list published during the week before the Masters will be invited to play. Also, the 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week before the Masters will get into the tournament.

Previously, the three leaders on the money list published four weeks before the Masters and the 50 leaders in the Official World Golf Ranking four weeks before the tournament received invitations.

The Players Championship, scheduled for March 27-30 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., will be the tournament that determines which golfers earn 11th-hour invitations.

"This will ensure that the best players at that time are in the Masters," Johnson said.

Had the new rules been in effect for the 2002 Masters, only one player would have earned an invitation. Len Mattiace had moved into 50th place in the Official World Golf Ranking on March 31, the week before the Masters.

Everyone in the top 10 on the money list the week before the Masters was already qualified.

"I think the quality of our field will be enhanced by these changes," Johnson said. "We have increased the number of players from the current year's PGA Tour money list, and in both instances players can qualify within one week of the tournament."

This the third time in the past five years that qualifications have either been added or revised.

The 1999 Masters saw the introduction of the top 50 off the Official World Golf Ranking four weeks before the tournament qualification.

In 2000, the top three on the PGA Tour money list four weeks before the Masters were invited, and the winner of The Players Championship received a three-year exemption.

That year also saw two revisions in qualifications.

The top 40, instead of the top 30, on the previous year's final PGA Tour money list made the Masters.

And only the top 16 from the 2000 Masters qualified for the 2001 Masters (instead of the top 24); the top eight from the U.S. Open qualified for the 2001 Masters (instead of the top 16); the top four from The PGA Championship qualified for the 2001 Masters (instead of the top eight); and the top four from the British Open qualified for the 2001 Masters (instead of just the winner).

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.