Masters Invitations Sent Out


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.
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