Masters Invitations Sent Out

By Associated PressDecember 21, 2004, 5:00 pm
The Masters will have a guy named Palmer playing at Augusta National next year - just not the King. Ryan Palmer was among five Nationwide Tour graduates who earned a spot in the 2005 Masters on Monday, when the final world ranking of the year was published and allowed Augusta National to start putting invitations in the mail.
Palmer - no relation to Arnold Palmer, who played his 50th and final Masters last year - qualified by finishing in the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list. He got there with a final-round 62 to win the Funai Classic at Disney in October.
Four other players were on the Nationwide Tour in '03 and earned a Masters invitation by finishing in the top 40 on the money list: Zach Johnson, Mark Hensby, Bo Van Pelt and Ted Purdy.
They were among 14 players who will make their first Masters appearance April 7-10.
The big winner Monday was Trevor Immelman of South Africa, who was No. 53 in the world going into the final week of the season. Because his points were not devalued as much as those in front of him, Immelman moved ahead of four players and ended the year at No. 49.
Two players he passed who fell out of the top 50 - Nick Price and Kirk Triplett - had already qualified for the Masters by finishing in the top 16 at Augusta National last April.
David Howell, whose 6-iron into the 17th green at the Ryder Cup swung momentum toward Europe, earned his first trip to the Masters by finishing the year in the top 50 in the world ranking. Other Masters newcomers who qualified through the world ranking were Nick O'Hern of Australia (No. 45) and Joakim Haeggman of Sweden (No. 48).
This will be the second time Ryan Palmer has been to Augusta National - but first as a player.
He cobbled together as many tickets as he could find one year as a birthday present for his father.
'The four of us went up there for Thursday and Friday. It was an awesome experience, just getting to see the place and Magnolia Lane and everything,' Palmer said after winning at Disney. 'What an unbelievable dream come true to get to drive down there with my wife and my parents ... as a player. I'm looking forward to that.'
The initial field has 87 players, including six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus and two-time winner Seve Ballesteros, both of whom have indicated they might play.
The final field will not be set until March 28, and there are four ways to get in:
- top 10 on the '05 money list after The Players Championship.
- top 50 in the world ranking after The Players Championship.
- winning The Players Championship, which comes with a three-year exemption to the Masters.
- special invitations to foreign-born players.
Phil Mickelson is the defending champion, winning his first major last year with five birdies on his last seven holes, including an 18-footer on the 18th for a one-shot victory over Ernie Els. He is among 22 past Masters champions expected to compete.
Only three amateurs qualified because Ryan Moore won the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
Augusta National changed its criteria five years ago, doing away with automatic invitations for PGA Tour winners and placing more emphasis on consistent play through the world ranking and money list.
Seven players who won on the PGA Tour since the Masters are not eligible for next year's tournament: Joey Sindelar (Wachovia Championship), Jonathan Byrd (B.C. Open), Vaughn Taylor (Reno-Tahoe Open), Woody Austin (Hartford), Bart Bryant (Texas Open), Brent Geiberger (Greensboro) and Andre Stolz (Las Vegas).
Sindelar was poised to finish in the top 40 on the money list and return to the Masters for the first time since 1993.
But on the final stroke in the final full-field tournament of the year, Tommy Armour III missed a 3-foot par putt. That knocked Armour from outright second place at the Chrysler Championship to a tie for second with Jesper Parnevik. The extra $100,000 for Parnevik moved the Swede past Sindelar to No. 40 on the money list.
Sindelar is No. 86 in the world ranking and will have three months to earn a trip to the Masters.
Others who will have to play well the first part of the season are Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman (No. 59), Brad Faxon (No. 63) and Colin Montgomerie (No. 81), who has not missed the Masters since 1991.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.