Originally created 11/27/02

Veterans face possibility of missing Masters



It's hard to imagine a Masters Tournament without Tom Lehman, Paul Azinger, Mark Calcavecchia, Jesper Parnevik and Greg Norman, but it could happen.

None of five, who have combined for 50 PGA Tour victories and four major championships, are qualified for the 2003 Masters.

However, with the exception of Norman, they can play their way into the tournament during the first four months of the 2003 season.

Their best shot is to finish in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking during the week before the Masters.

They can also qualify by being among the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list during the week before the Masters - it was the top three on the list four weeks before the Masters until a change Tuesday - or by winning The Players Championship.

Lehman, who has played in 10 Masters, is ranked 52nd in the world. Calcavecchia, who has played 16 times at Augusta National Golf Club, is ranked 56th; Azinger, a 15-time Masters participant, is ranked 57th; and Parnevik, who has played in six tournaments, is 77th.

As for Norman, he's so far down the line in the ranking (127th), his best hope is to get an unprecedented second straight special international invitation.

The other avenues - top 10 on the money list the week before the Masters or winning The Players Championship - aren't open to Norman, who is not a member of the PGA Tour. Norman has played in every Masters since 1981.

There are no green jackets among this fivesome, but they have combined for 13 top-five finishes at Augusta National and five runner-up finishes: Norman in 1986, 1987 and 1996; Calcavecchia in 1988; and Lehman in 1994.

Lehman and Azinger, who are coming off disappointing PGA Tour seasons, played well in the recent UBS Warburg Cup on St. Simons Island, Ga., helping the United States beat the Rest of the World team. Each team had 12 players.

Lehman, 43, was one of just two golfers to win all three of his matches, and Azinger, 41, went 1-1-1.

The 2003 Masters is still more than five months away, but the Azinger and Lehman can't help but wonder whether they'll be in Augusta that week.

"I'm OK; I'm only 55th in the world or something," said Azinger, the winner of the 1994 PGA Championship. "Obviously, it's on my mind, but if I don't play good enough to get in the Masters based on that world ranking, I don't deserve to play. I'm not really thinking about it too much.

"I just want to start making good, solid contact with my driver again," Azinger said. "It's been really frustrating. I start every single hole behind the 8-ball because I'm scrambling. I was probably the least accurate driver on tour this year.

"Normally, I'm between 50th and 100th in accuracy off the tee," Azinger said. "I've never been any better, or expect to be. But I expect to be that good. I don't expect to be 150th, or whatever I ended up. It's horrendous."

Lehman had his worst PGA Tour season, finishing 74th on the money list.

"My feeling is, I played just about as poorly as I possibly could play this year," Lehman said. "I don't like finishing 70th on the money list and not having a chance to win. I was so inconsistent. I'm not surprised at all that I dropped where I dropped to. I made Disney my last tournament, which was at the end of October, so I could have 2 1/2 months to work on my game between then and the start of next year. I've been home practicing a lot."

Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion, said he developed a few bad swing habits from playing with a separated right shoulder for six months in 1999 before having surgery.

"I have a good understanding of what has been making me hit it so poorly," Lehman said. "It's just a matter of fixing it, which isn't always that easy. I've got some time to do it.

"So it's important for me to spend a lot of time between now and the Hawaiian Open so that I do get off to a good start," Lehman said. "If I don't get off to a good start, my chances of playing Augusta are going to be pretty slim. If I don't make it, it would be the end of a nice run."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.