Originally created 03/29/03

Masters hopefuls watch bubble burst



PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Stephen Leaney and Trevor Immelman probably aren't going to like what they read Monday morning in the newspaper.

The pair likely will see they've dropped out of the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking, meaning they won't be playing in the Masters Tournament on April 10-13.

Leaney and Immelman needed to remain in the top 50 after the Players Championship to qualify for the Masters, but both will miss the 36-hole cut when the darkness-suspended second round concludes this morning.

Leaney, who is 49th in the ranking, and Immelman, who is 50th, will lose their top-50 status when the ranking comes out Monday.

Leaney, a 34-year-old Australian who has never played the Masters, shot 78-77 for 11-over-par 155 at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course.

Immelman, a 23-year-old South African who played in the 1999 Masters as an amateur and missed the cut, shot 79 in the first round of the Players Championship and was 1-under through 14 holes in Friday's second round.

The cut is projected at even-par 144.

"None," Leaney said of his chances to make the Masters field after his second round. "I had to make the cut this week and there are too many people behind me close that are likely to go past me. I think it's a fair bet I won't be in. I'll still wait until Monday, but I'll book the airfare to go back to Australia on Monday night because I don't think there is any chance."

Leaney played in last week's Bay Hill Invitational and retained his 49th spot in the ranking by tying for 25th place. That earned him a spot in the Players Championship as a top-50 player, which could have vaulted him into the Masters.

Now, the arrangements he made for Augusta must be changed.

"I've got a hotel booked, but that's not confirmed until Monday," Leaney said. "The plans were in place. We'll just have to wait and see. I'm not too confident now."

BOOK IT: By making the cut in the Players Championship, Tom Lehman assured himself a spot in the Masters and will keep alive his streak of consecutive starts at Augusta National .

Lehman has rounds of 69-72 and is at 141, six shots off Padraig Harrington's lead.

Lehman entered the season out of the top 50 on the World Golf Ranking, but is currently 43rd. There aren't enough players outside the top 50 who are playing well enough this week to pass Lehman.

It will be the 11th straight Masters appearance for Lehman, who was the runnerup in 1994.

KEEPING WATCH: Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, has been keeping close tabs on the progress this week of his nephew, Jay Haas, who is three shots off the lead after rounds of 68-70.

Haas, 49, is hoping to play his way into the Masters by finishing among the top-10 on the PGA Tour money list or cracking the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking after this week's tournament.

He's 15th on the PGA Tour money list and 57th in the World Golf Ranking despite skipping the Honda Classic and Bay Hill Invitational.

"He knows what I need to do," Haas said of Goalby. "Back when he was playing his best golf, in the 1960s and 1970s, he was playing 40 weeks a year. He can't believe I'd take any weeks off. He's just shocked that I wouldn't play the Honda or Bay Hill."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.