The Race to the Masters is on! Many of the qualified players have standing exemptions because of their consistent play through the years. This is the first Major and every uninvited professional golfer is chomping at the bit and waiting by the phone. The real question for this week – How to get invited to the big dance?
The Augusta National Golf Club has an extensive list on how to qualify for the Masters. Every professional golfer understands the stakes of every tournament and the importance of playing well – consistently. It is important to understand how a player qualifies for The Masters to determine the most important tournament of the year. To qualify a player must be:
- Masters Tournament Champions (Lifetime)
- US Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)
- British Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)
- PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)
- Winners of The Players Championship (Three years)
- Current US Amateur Champion (6-A) (Honorary, non-competing after 1 year) and the runner-up to the current US Amateur Champion
- Current British Amateur Champion (Honorary, non-competing after 1 year)
- Current Asian Amateur Champion
- Current US Amateur Public Links Champion
- Current US Mid-Amateur Champion
- The first 16 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament
- The first 8 players, including ties, in the previous year’s US Open Championship
- The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s British Open Championship
- The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship
- The 30 leaders on the Final Official PGA Tour Money List for the previous calendar year
- Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters
- Those qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship
- The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year
- The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament
What happens if you do not qualify? That question is simple to answer – win the Valero Texas Open! It is that easy, there is no reason to complicate the equation. This tournament is the most important tournament of the year for those players not qualified for The Masters. The winner will win enough money or world ranking points to warrant an invitation.
Pundits will suggest that the Shell Houston Open is more important than the Valero Texas Open because it is the last chance to qualify for the first Major. This is just not so! The field at this week’s professional tournament is not world class. This is not to say that it is a weak field, but most of the top players are resting and waiting to play in Houston next week. They use Houston as a tune up for the first Major and that field will definitely be world class!
Interestingly, only two of the top ten players in the world rankings, Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson, decided to play in this week’s tournament. This leaves the field wide open for someone to rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity to qualify. Surprisingly, Mickelson has not finished in the top 10 in 7 events this year; therefore, he will be using this weekend’s tournament to get back on track before the big event. Conversely, Johnson won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and has 3 top ten finishes to boot; he is playing very well and has a chance to improve on his FEDEX standings. The Valero Texas Open should be exciting as this tournament presents the last real opportunity for journeymen players to qualify for the big dance!
The most important tournament of the year is a matter of perspective. All things being equal, the Valero Texas Open is the most important tournament for those players yet to qualify for the Masters. This weekend’s field is strong, but not world class strong. Regardless, the pressure will be great. The first two days will set the stage, but the last two days will hold the drama!
The Grateful Golfer, Pundit Arena.