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Daly Kuchar Qualify for Masters

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Matt Kuchar found another reason Monday to celebrate his first PGA Tour victory: He's going back to the Masters.
 
Kuchar, who was No. 210 in the world ranking at the start of the year and No. 147 just two weeks ago, shot up to No. 50 by winning the Honda Classic, just enough to earn another trip to Augusta National.
 
The Masters extended invitations Monday to players in the top 50 who were not already eligible. Others who qualified were John Daly and Rory Sabbatini.
 
That gives the Masters an expected field of 89 players.
 
Kuchar first played the Masters in 1998 as the U.S. Amateur champion and dazzled the galleries with his everlasting smile and strong game. He tied for 21st to earn another invitation, then tied for 14th at the U.S. Open.
 
His two-stroke victory in the Honda Classic, where he one-putted the last eight greens and closed with a 66, give him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and an unlikely spot in the field for the Masters, which will be played April 11-14.
 
Daly returns to the Masters after failing to qualifying last year for the first time since his breakthrough victory in the 1991 PGA Championship.
 
'You get into those tournaments and you think you're going to be in there for the rest of your life,' Daly said. 'I always said, 'Well, I've got next year, I've got next year.' That year runs out. And it was pretty tough.'
 
Daly started last year out of the top 500 and made an incredible rise to No. 51, narrowly missing an invitation that goes to the top 50 at the end of the 2001 season. His only goal this year was to get into the top 50 by Monday's deadline. He was at No. 43.
 
Daly tied for third in 1993, six strokes behind Bernhard Langer, although he has always felt the course was ideal for him because of his length. Golf's longest hitter the past 10 years, Daly has been playing a slight fade off the tee and is curious to see how his game will fit the vast renovations at Augusta, which include nearly 300 additional yards.
 
'I heard the golf course is even more perfect for me now, and it will be interesting to play Augusta with a cut,' Daly said.
 
Sabbatini finished at No. 45 and will play the Masters for the second straight year. He missed the cut last year.
 
The other criteria was top three on the PGA Tour money list after the Honda Classic. Brad Faxon, Chris DiMarco and Kevin Sutherland already had qualified. The only other way to get into the Masters is to win THE PLAYERS Championship next week.
 
The Masters changed its criteria three years ago, putting more emphasis on the world ranking and eliminating the previous qualification of winning a PGA Tour event.
 
Eight players who won PGA Tour events since last year's Masters did not get into the field -- Robert Damron, David Gossett, John Cook, Joel Edwards, Cameron Beckman, Matt Gogel, Len Mattiace and Ian Leggatt.
 
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