Top 50 in the world for Masters invitations getting tight
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — A year ago, Brandt Snedeker made a last-ditch effort to secure a spot in the Masters by flying halfway around the world to play in the Indonesia Masters with hopes of getting into the top 50 by the end of the year.
He withdrew after a 72, ended the year at No. 59 and wound up missing the Masters for the first time since 2010.
That won’t be a problem this year because Snedeker won the Wyndham Championship. Charles Howell III won’t be consumed about getting back to the Masters because he won the final PGA Tour event of the year at the RSM Classic.
With only three weeks of golf left around the world, it could be tight for a few others wanting to end the year in the top 50.
Branden Grace is No. 48 this week and likely to slip a little more. He is expected to play next week in the South African Open, and he currently is on the entry list for the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Matt Wallace, who would appear safe at No. 44, also is on the entry list for the two events in South Africa.
Emiliano Grillo is No. 46 and not scheduled to play, though he also appears to be safe. Ditto for Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark at No. 47.
If the cutoff for top 50 were now, 13 players would qualify for Augusta National through the world ranking, a list that includes Ian Poulter at No. 39. Earlier this year, Poulter came up one victory short in the Dell Match Play of getting into the top 50, and then qualified the next week by winning the Houston Open.
Either way, the Masters would appear to easily meet its goal of keeping the field to under 100 players.
Including 13 players from the top 50 not already eligible, the field for the Masters is at 79. One spot remains for the Latin American Amateur champion, along with winners of PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters (except those opposite the World Golf Championships) and another top-50 exemption a week before the Masters.
MICKELSON AT 25 YEARS IN TOP 50
In his final event of his first full year as a pro, Phil Mickelson was runner-up to Tom Lehman in the Casio World Open in Japan and cracked the top 50 in the world for the first time at No. 47.
Wednesday is the 25-year anniversary, and Mickelson never left the top 50.
That’s 25 straight years — 1,305 consecutive weeks — that he has been among the top 50 in the world. On that day, Mickelson was one spot behind Fuzzy Zoeller and one spot ahead of Craig Stadler.
The biggest moment for Mickelson might have been the Phoenix Open this year. He didn’t play the last two months of 2017 and finished the year at No. 37, and then missed the cut in his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge and dropped to No. 49.
The next week, Mickelson tied for fifth in Phoenix and moved to No. 41. Then, he shot 67 in the final round at Pebble Beach to snag a four-way tie for second, moving to No. 35. And then he won in Mexico three weeks later.
Otherwise, he has never come seriously close to falling out of the top 50, a remarkable run of consistency.
The bad news: Mickelson has never been to No. 1.
Tiger Woods wants to be the first playing captain of the Presidents Cup since Hale Irwin at the inaugural event in 1994.
But only if he qualifies for the team on his own.
Woods currently is at No. 16 going into the year, and the top eight players after the Tour Championship on Aug. 25 qualify for the team.
“If I make the team on points, yes, I’ll play,” Woods said. “If I don’t make it on points, then it’s up to myself, my vice captains and the rest of the players who are already on the team who is the best suited to play. If we think that it’s someone else, then I don’t play. It will be a team decision on who are the next four picks.”
LEGEND OF CHAMP
Tony Finau knew all about big-hitting rookie Cameron Champ even before they played together in the Mayakoba Classic earlier this month.
Finau invited him to his foundation event in September — they have the same manager — and one of the exhibitions was a long drive contest between Champ and Finau’s cousin, Ben Tua’one, who finished second in a World Long Drive competition on two occasions.
Champ wound up winning.
“They both went after it and both their speeds were right around 200 mph, just over — maybe 202, 203,” Finau said. “Cameron was obviously a little more efficient, hitting in the center of the face. So his ball in Utah was going just over 400 yards. It was quite impressive to watch. ... He has the flexibility and the length I’ve never seen before.”
WORLD RANKING CAROUSEL
Brooks Koepka is back to No. 1 in the world, and there’s a chance he can stay there for the rest of the year.
That depends on Justin Rose.
The top of the world ranking has been so close that Koepka and Rose have traded spots at No. 1 and No. 2 for the last five weeks. The last two times Koepka reached No. 1, he didn’t play. Rose has reached No. 1 on three occasions — by finishing second, winning and not playing.
Rose likely needs to finish alone in third or better at the Hero World Challenge this week to return to No. 1. Because neither is playing the rest of the year — and Rose won the Indonesian Open last year — Koepka would stay at the top.
JACK’S MAGIC NUMBER
It has been 50 years since Jack Nicklaus first appeared at an American Cancer Society benefit at The Breakers in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it produced an unexpected memory: It’s the only time he shot 59.
Nicklaus played an 18-hole exhibition that day with Julius Boros, Sam Snead and Dave Marr.
“Sam was really ticked off,” Nicklaus said. “He shot 64 and got clipped by five.”
Nicklaus never shot better than 62 in the 2,153 rounds he played on the PGA Tour.
Kevin Chappell is having a micro discectomy procedure on his back and is not sure when he will return. Chappell, who had a chance to win the British Open with two holes remaining, said in an Instagram post that it was the best option to deal with his ailing back. ... The U.S. Women’s Open is returning to Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania in 2024. In Gee Chun won the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster in 2015 when it set attendance records. ... Minjee Lee has been awarded the Greg Norman Medal as Australia’s best golfer of the year. Lee, who won the Vic Open and the Volvik Championship and reached No. 6 in the world, beat out Jason Day, who won the Farmers Insurance Open and Wells Fargo Championship. ... The PGA of America has a new partnership with Missions Hills Group in Chia to open golf academies in Shenzhen and Hainan Island. Pacific Pines Sports Group in China will manage the properties.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Since being picked for the Ryder Cup, Sergio Garcia has finished in the top 10 in five straight tournaments. It’s his longest streak of top 10s since seven in a row at the end of 2008 and start of 2009.
“I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I am very determined.” — Bryson DeChambeau.