By Mike Blum
Six Georgians and an ex-Georgia Bulldog are among 92 players who are on the list of recipients for invitations to the 2011 Masters.
The field added 12 players who were among the top 50 in the World Rankings when the 2010 golf season concluded after the South Africa Open in mid-December. The only American in that group was Sean O’Hair, who was among a group that included names familiar in the U.S. (the Molinari brothers, Robert Karlsson, Ross Fisher, Ryo Ishikawa) and some mostly unknown on this side of the Atlantic (Kyung–tae Kim, Yuta Ikeda, Hiroyuki Fujita).
Among the Georgians in the field are Sea Island residents Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champions, and Davis Love III, the 1997 PGA champion. Love earned his spot by finishing 6th in the U.S. Open. The third major champion among Georgia’s Masters qualifiers is 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink.
Like Love, Matt Kuchar earned a 2011 Masters invitation with a top-8 finish in the U.S.
Open, and went on to qualify in three more categories, one for his win in the Barclays playoffs event. Acworth’s Jason Bohn won in New Orleans two weeks after the 2010 Masters to lock up his invitation early, with former Georgia Bulldog Bubba Watson gaining his spot with a win in Hartford.
Alpharetta’s Heath Slocum won the inaugural McGladrey Classic at Sea Island GC, but his victory did not earn him an invitation. The Masters does not automatically invite the winners of Fall Series tournaments or those held opposite a major or WGC event, with Slocum earning his spot by finishing 30th on the PGA Tour money list, the final spot that earns a Masters berth.
Among the 2010 PGA Tour winners who did not receive a Masters invitation was Sea Island’s Jonathan Byrd, whose memorable playoff hole-in-one earned him a victory in Las Vegas.
Like the other players not on the 2011 Masters invitation list, Byrd will have to win one of the 13 PGA Tour events that precede the Masters. The top 50 in the World Rankings one week prior to the Masters will also qualify for Augusta, but Byrd is unlikely to be able to achieve that without a victory.
Most of the players within range of the top 50 in the World Rankings are international players. The highest-ranked American not qualified for the 2011 Masters is Scott Verplank (71), with J.B. Holmes (73) the only other active American player among the top 80.
Among the non-American players near the top 50, the two most likely to earn 2011 Masters invites are Italy’s Matteo Manassero and South Korea’s Seung–yul Noh, two of the outstanding crop of young international players.
The two players who have the strongest incentive for winning an early-season event in 2011 are Augustans Charles Howell and Vaughn Taylor. Howell typically plays his best golf early in the year on the West Coast, while Taylor just missed qualifying last year, losing in a playoff in Houston the Sunday before the Masters.
Going into the 2011 season, 92 players (excluding former Masters champions not expected to compete) have qualified for the ’11 Masters. Following is a list of the 92 players with their primary qualifying criteria.
Masters champions – Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, 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
U.S. Open champions (2006-10) – Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover, Geoff Ogilvy
British Open champions (2006-10) – Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington
PGA champions (2006-10) – Martin Kaymer, Y.E. Yang
Players champions (2008-10) – Tim Clark, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia
Top 16, 2010 Masters – Lee Westwood, Anthony Kim, K.J. Choi, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan, Ricky Barnes, Ian Poulter, Miguel Jimenez, Jerry Kelly, Ryan Moore, David Toms, Steve Marino
Top 8, 2010 U.S. Open – Gregory Havret, Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love, Brandt Snedeker, Alex Cejka, Dustin Johnson
Top 4, 2010 British Open – Paul Casey
PGA Tour FedExCup winners (after 2010 Masters) – Jim Furyk, Jason Bohn, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker, Carl Pettersson, Stuart Appleby, Arjun Atwal, Charley Hoffman
Top 30, 2010 FedExCup – Luke Donald, Retief Goosen, Martin Laird, Camilo Villegas, Ryan Palmer, Kevin Streelman, Kevin Na, Ben Crane, Robert Allenby, Jeff Overton, Bo Van Pelt
Top 30, PGA Tour 2010 money list – Bill Haas, Rickie Fowler, Heath Slocum
Top 50, World Rankings (end of 2010) – Francesco Molinari, Robert Karlsson, Eduordo Molinari, Kyung-tae Kim, Ross Fisher, Ryo Ishikawa, Charl Schwartzel, Peter Hanson, Sean O’Hair, Yuta Ikeda, Alvaro Quiros. Hiroyuki Fujita
Amateurs – Lion Kim (U.S. champion), Peter Uihlein (U.S. runner-up); David Chung (PubLinks), Jim Jeong (British), Nathan Smith (Mid-Am), Hideki Matsuyama (Asian)
(Winners of PGA Tour full points FedExCup events prior to the 2011 Masters and the top 50 in the World Rankings after the Arnold Palmer Invitational will also qualify)
Top players not qualified (U.S.) – Scott Verplank, J.B. Holmes, Brian Gay, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Leonard, Jonathan Byrd, Robert Garrigus, Chad Campbell, Charles Howell, Rocco Mediate
(International) – Brendan Jones, Toru Taniguchi, Richard Green, Matteo Manassero, Seung-yul Noh, Simon Dyson, Thongchai Jaidee, Rhys Davies, Anders Hansen, Wen Chong Liang, Rory Sabbatini, Darren Clarke