Masters field nearing completion

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm •  Published: March 25, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — 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.

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FURYK FOUNDATION: Jim Furyk never minded showing up for a charity event, especially if another athlete asked him.

Furyk said he had a harder time asking others to help him. Nevertheless, he assembled quite a crew last weekend for the fourth "Furyk & Friends Concert and Celebrity Golf Classic at Sawgrass Country Club.

He raised $450,000 at last count for the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation, which serves needy children and families in the Jacksonville area. The event now has raised over $1.2 million since it began in 2011.

Among those who participated were Reggie Jackson, Lynn Swann and Jerome Bettis, along with golfers Davis Love III, Zach Johnson and Justin Leonard.

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THE APPLE DIDN'T FALL FAR: Few players are as confident as Ian Poulter. Geoff Ogilvy once told about playing with Poulter for the first time with Justin Rose and Rose's brother, right after Poulter had earned his European Tour card. He said Poulter talked about how he would win in Europe as a rookie and eventually move onto the PGA Tour and all the big events. "He couldn't even beat Justin's brother that day," Ogilvy said.

Sure enough, Poulter won the Italian Open as a rookie. He reached as high as No. 5 in the world and has become Europe's best performer in the Ryder Cup.

Sunday at Bay Hill, he was on the putting green as his 9-year-old son, Luke, watched him from the side. Someone turned to Poulter's son and playfully said, "Luke, how long until you're out here?" The boy didn't blink.

"Two years," he said.

Poulter heard the conversation and burst into laughter, telling his son, "Luke, don't you change."

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GMAC AND MAHAN: Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan have been paired twice in the last month — the third round of the Match Play Championship, and the third round at Bay Hill. They mainly are linked by the final match of the 2010 Ryder Cup, which McDowell won to clinch victory for Europe.

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