ORLANDO, Fla. – The Texas Open is the last chance for players to crack the top 50 in the world ranking and earn a spot in the Masters.
The drama is lacking this year.
Richard Sterne is No. 53 and George Coetzee is No. 55 – except they’re not in the field at San Antonio. The only players at the Valero Texas Open who can move into the top 50 are Chesson Hadley (No. 56) and Ryan Palmer (No. 62). Everyone else who could make it to the top 50 would have to win – and that’s an automatic invitation, anyway.
Without any movement, Stephen Gallacher of Scotland (who won Dubai) is the only player who will have moved into the top 50 since the end of last year.
Augusta National began relying on the world ranking in 2000, only it was slightly different. The top 50 at the end of the preceding year received invitations, along with the top 50 a month before the Masters. Starting in 2003, the final cutoff was moved to one week before the Masters.
The club has never said why it takes the top 50 at the end of a calendar year. Perhaps it’s so players can make travel arrangements, or perhaps it was to give an advantage to overseas players, who compete deep into the year. PGA Tour members have more avenues to qualify throughout the season.
But imagine what would happen if there was only one cutoff for the top 50 in the world, and it followed the Florida swing.
Matteo Manassero (51), Branden Grace (57), David Lynn (65) and Peter Hanson (70) all were in the top 50 in December. They would have spent the Florida swing trying to stay in the top 50 or move back in. That change might be something for Augusta National to consider if it feels the field is getting too close to 100 players.
As it is, the Masters virtually is assured of having fewer than 100 players for the 48th straight year. But just barely.