THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - The final official shot of 2008 was a tap-in birdie by Richard Sterne to win the South African Open in a playoff, capping his unlikely climb in the world rankings to be among 15 players Sunday earning a Masters invitation.
Three players on two continents made one final push for the top 50 in the rankings to make the trip to Augusta National.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tied for third at the South African Open and will move up to No. 39, while Lin Wen-Tang of Taiwan tied for sixth in the Volvo Masters on the Asian Tour and will be No. 49.
Augusta National since 2000 has invited the top 50 in the rankings at the end of the calendar year. With no more official tournaments remaining, the final 2008 rankings were determined Sunday.
The 15 players not otherwise eligible except for their top-50 ranking were Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher, Luke Donald, Shingo Kayatama, Graeme McDowell, Rory Sabbatini, Jeev Milkha Singh, Aaron Baddeley, McIlroy, Oliver Wilson, Sterne, Soren Hansen, Tang and Soren Kjeldsen.
Along with other criteria, that puts the Masters field at 88 players who are expected to compete April 10-13. Among those still not eligible are Woody Austin, Scott Verplank, Davis Love III and J.B. Holmes, the only Ryder Cup player who could miss the first major of the year.
Augusta National has the smallest field of the four majors, and it most likely will get larger.
Players still can qualify by winning one of 13 PGA Tour events leading to the Masters, or by getting into the top 50 in the rankings published a week before the Masters. The Masters has not had more than 100 competitors since 1966.
No one made a bigger move than Sterne, who was ranked No. 113 two weeks ago. But he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open in consecutive weeks to move up 70 spots to No. 43.
Lin also was out of the top 100 in early November but began his move by winning the Hong Kong Open and securing his place with a tie for sixth in the Volvo Masters.
The 88 players who have qualified and are expected to compete in the 73st Masters, to be played April 10-13 at Augusta National Golf Club (players listed in only one category):
Masters champions: Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark O'Meara, Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Craig Stadler, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd.
U.S. Open champions (five years): Angel Cabrera, Geoff Ogilvy, Michael Campbell, Retief Goosen.
British Open champions (five years): Padraig Harrington, Todd Hamilton.
Players Championship (three years): Sergio Garcia, Stephen Ames.
U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up: a-Danny Lee, a-Drew Kittleson.
British Amateur champion: a-Reinier Saxton.
U.S. Amateur Public Links champion: a-Jack Newman.
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion: a-Steve Wilson.
Top 16 players and ties from 2008 Masters: Stewart Cink, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Flesch, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Robert Karlsson, Andres Romero, Nick Watney, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Stuart Appleby, Sean O'Hair.
Top eight players and ties from 2008 U.S. Open: Rocco Mediate, D.J. Trahan, Carl Pettersson, John Merrick.
Top four players and ties from 2008 British Open: Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Greg Norman.
Top four players and ties from 2008 PGA Championship: Ben Curtis, Camilo Villegas.
Top 30 players from the 2008 PGA Tour money list: Kenny Perry, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Robert Allenby, Jim Furyk, Ryuji Imada, K.J. Choi, Kevin Sutherland, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Chad Campbell, Boo Weekley, Ken Duke, Dudley Hart, Hunter Mahan.
Winners of PGA Tour events that award full FedEx Cup points since the 2008 Masters: Adam Scott, Chez Reavie.
The field from the 2008 Tour Championship: Billy Mayfair, Briny Baird, Tim Clark, Bubba Watson.
Top 50 players from the final 2008 world ranking: Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher, Luke Donald, Shingo Katayama, Graeme McDowell, Rory Sabbatini, Jeev Milkha Singh, Aaron Baddeley, Rory McIlroy, Oliver Wilson, Richard Sterne, Soren Hansen, Lin Wentang, Soren Kjeldsen .
Top 50 players from world ranking published a week before the 2009 Masters: TBD.
Special foreign invitations: TBD.