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Major Changes To Masters Invites

Greg Norman won't have to worry about a special invitation to next year's Masters.

Golf's most exclusive major championship on Monday announced sweeping changes to its invitation list, a move that likely will increase the number of players in the field but also make sure they are among the best in the world.

Effective immediately, the Masters will take the top 50 players from the World Golf Rankings who have not otherwise qualified. And starting with the 2000 Masters, winning a PGA Tour event will no longer be worth a ticket to Augusta National Golf Club.

"Our existing qualification system has served us well," said Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson. "We think, however, our new methodology better reflects the changes in golf, and will ensure that the best players worldwide are invited to the Masters each year."

The changes are the first to the invitation list since 1990, when members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team no longer qualified automatically for the Masters.

Augusta National will invite the top 50 in the world rankings at the end of the year, as well as the top 50 in the rankings after the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship -- or four weeks before the Masters.

That takes care of Norman, who is ranked No. 15 but would not have otherwise qualified.

His five-year exemption from winning the 1993 Open Championship expired this year, and he failed to qualify through other means because of shoulder surgery that forced him to miss three majors and the last six months of the PGA season.

Others that will get in under the new guidelines include Open Championship runner-up Brian Watts, ranked No. 24, and most likely Brad Faxon at No. 42.

Starting with the 2000 Masters, winners of PGA Tour events will no longer be exempt, a qualification that was first implemented in 1972. Had those changes been in place for next year's tournament, players like Olin Browne, Joe Durant and J P. Hayes would not have qualified.

Among the other changes to the invitation list:

  • The top 40 on the PGA Tour money list from the previous year, up from 30. Also the top three on the current money list published four weeks before the Masters.
  • The top 16, including ties, from the previous Masters (down from 24).
  • The top 8, including ties, from the U.S. Open (down from 16).
  • The top 4, including ties, from the Open Championship. Previously, only the winner was exempt.
  • The top 4, including ties, from the PGA Championship (down from 8).

The Masters champion will contnue to receive a lifetime exemption, and the winner of the other three majors will still get a five-year exemption.

Also this year, the winner of The Players Championship will get a three-year exemption instead of one. The Players traditionally has the strongest field and richest purse in golf. Of its 25 winners, only four have not won a major championship.

Despite the changes, the Masters tournament committee will, at its discretion, invite international players who have not otherwise qualified.

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