With the 2018 golf calendar down to a handful of international tournaments, invitations are about to go out for the 2019 Masters, and a smaller than usual group of golfers with Georgia ties will be among those getting an invite in the mail.
Only nine players with Georgia ties will be receiving Masters invitations over the holidays, and four of them have won in Augusta, which brings with it a lifetime spot in the tournament.
The latest addition to the roster of Masters champions is former Augusta State standout Patrick Reed, who scored his first major title in Augusta last year, holding off Sunday charges from Rickie Fowler and former Ryder Cup partner Jordan Spieth.
Reed joins former Georgia Bulldog Bubba Watson, St. Simons Island resident Zach Johnson and Augusta native and long-time Columbus resident Larry Mize as Masters champions, with the 60-year-old Mize nearing an end to his competitive days in the tournament.
Only five other Georgia golfers have earned spots in the 2019 Masters, with two of them securing their spots in the field with victories in the final two PGA Tour events of 2018. Matt Kuchar, like Mize a former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket who resides on St. Simons Island, won the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico and Augusta native Charles Howell ended years of frustration with a playoff victory in the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club.
Kuchar has been an annual participant in the Masters since 2010 while Howell will be playing in his hometown major for the first time since 2012 and just the second since 2008.
Former UGA golfer Kevin Kisner and Georgia Tech’s Stewart Cink, a long-time Duluth resident, earned their invitations with strong showings in majors this year. Kisner tied for second in the British Open at Carnoustie, two shots behind Francesco Molinari after sharing the 54-hole lead. Cink tied for fourth in the PGA Championship at Bellerive, and will play in Augusta for the first time since 2014, when his 5-year exemption for winning the 2009 British Open ran out.
The ninth Georgian on the Masters invitation list is St. Simons resident Patton Kizzire, who finished 30th in the FedExCup standings to slip into the field for the 2018 Tour Championship, which got gets him into the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in 2019.
To get into the 2019 Masters field, players not qualified as of the end of this year will have to either win a PGA Tour event prior to the Masters or be in the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings as of April 1, one week before fans and players begin gathering in Augusta.
Savannah native Brian Harman, a former UGA golfer who is living on St. Simons Island and Luke List, who grew up in north Georgia and recently moved from the West Coast to Augusta, will both finish the year just outside the top 50 and won’t have to improve their position much to break into the top 50 by the cutoff date for qualification.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley was the next highest ranked Georgian without a Masters invitation at 66, followed by Macon native and ex-Georgia Bulldog Russell Henley at 90 as of Dec, 10.
Hadley and Henley will likely need a PGA Tour win before the Masters to make it into the field, along with other top PGA Tour members from Georgia including Ollie Schniederjans, Chris Kirk, Hudson Swafford, Harris English and Augusta native and former Augusta State golfer Vaughn Taylor.
The current Masters field stands at 66, with 13 or 14 golfers to be added when the final top 50 for 2019 in the OWGR is determined, and the winner of the 2019 Latin America Amateur in January also getting into the field. That number could be even lower if a few of the veteran Masters champions elect not to play.
Here is the current filed for the 2019 Masters, with the players listed under their primary invitation category.
Masters champions: Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Phil Mickelson, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Mike Weir, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Larry Mize. (other former champions not expected to play)
Last 5 U.S. Open champions: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer.
Last 5 British Open champions: Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy.
Last 5 PGA champions: Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Jason Day.
Last 3 Players champions: Webb Simpson, Si Woo Kim.
Top 12, 2018 Masters: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose.
Top 4, 2018 U.S. Open: Tommy Fleetwood.
Top 4, 2018 British Open: Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele.
Top 4, 2018 PGA: Stewart Cink.
Top 30, 2018 FedExCup: Billy Horschel, Patrick Cantlay, Kyle Stanley, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Gary Woodland, Patton Kizzire.
PGA Tour winners since 2018 Masters: Satoshi Kodaira, Andrew Landry, Aaron Wise, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Na, Michael Kim, Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Kevin Tway, Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell.
Amateurs: Viktor Hovland, Devon Bling, Jovan Rebula, Takumi Kanaya, Kevin O’Connell. (Latin America Amateur to be played in January.)
Top 50, World Golf Rankings (will be official after last tournaments of 2018): Alex Noren Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter, Hao Tong Li, Thorbjorn Olesen, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace, Lucas Bjerregaard, Emiliano Grillo, Brandan Grace.
(Prominent players currently not in the field: Byeong Hun An, Brian Harman, Luke List, Daniel Berger, Pat Perez, Lee Westwood, Russell Knox, Adam Hadwin, Thomas Pieters, Kevin Chappell, Russ Fisher, Shane Lowry, Ryan Moore, J.B. Holmes, Cameron Champ. Jason Dufner.)