Toru Taniguchi is at No. 62 in the world ranking, and nothing short of a victory would move him into the top 50.
Augusta National invites the top 50 players in the final world ranking. Other than Taniguchi, there doesnt appear to be anyone who could break into the top 50 -- or fall out'who has not already qualified.
A year ago, Loren Roberts dropped four spots, from No. 47 to No. 51, despite not playing golf in December.
The only players on the bubble who will drop out of the top 50 are Kirk Triplett (No. 48) and Nick Price (No. 50), and both already are on Augusta Nationals mailing list because they finished in the top 16 at the Masters this year.
The final qualification for the Masters is to be in the top 50 in the world ranking or the top 10 on the 2005 PGA Tour money list after The Players Championship.
Among those who will have to play hard the first three months of the season are Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman (No. 59), Brad Faxon (No. 60) and Justin Rose (No. 68), the 36-hole leader at the Masters who shot 81 in the third round and finished out of the top 16 by two shots.
The list currently does not include seven players who won PGA Tour events since the last Masters.
Three of them won opposite-field tournaments'Jonathan Byrd (B.C. Open), Vaughn Taylor (Reno-Tahoe Open) and Bart Bryant (Texas Open). Two others'Brent Geiberger (Greensboro) and Andre Stolz (Las Vegas) were on the verge of losing their PGA Tour cards.
The hard-luck case belongs to Joey Sindelar, who won the Wachovia Championship against an elite field that included Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Sindelar finished 41st on the money list by $13,254, missing out of a Masters invitation when Tommy Armour III missed a 3-foot par putt on the last hole of the last full-field event.
Also off the list is Woody Austin, who won the Buick Championship in Hartford and finished 45th on the money list.
Chalk up another honor for Vijay Singh, who joined Annika Sorenstam and Craig Stadler as easy winners in the Golf Writers Association of American player of the year awards.
Singh became only the sixth player to win at least nine times on the PGA Tour, replaced Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world ranking and became the first $10 million man in golf. He got 95 percent of the GWAA vote, followed by Ernie Els and Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who each had 2.5 percent.
Sorenstam won eight times on the LPGA Tour, including her seventh career major. She won her fourth straight GWAA award by getting 93 percent of the vote, followed by U.S. Womens Open champion Meg Mallon (6 percent) and Kraft Nabisco winner Grace Park (1 percent).
Stadlers five victories on the Champions Tour included a major, and the 51-year-old won the money title. He got 88 percent of the vote, followed by Hale Irwin (11 percent) and Mark McNulty (1 percent).
The players will be honored at the GWAA annual dinner April 6 in Augusta, Ga.
Fred Couples was interested in being Ryder Cup captain for 2006, only he wasnt about to lobby for the job with the PGA of America.
Maybe because Couples wasnt sure whom to call.
He played the first round of the Target World Challenge with Jay Haas, another name that surfaced as possible candidates before the PGA settled on Tom Lehman.
Jay and I had talked a little bit about maybe being co-captains, and he asked me if I ever called ... whats his name? Couples said.
Couples was told that the PGA of America president at the time was M.G. Orender.
Maybe thats why I didnt get it, Couples said. Im a little blank. What is it?
The PGA might not have been interested in Couples, anyway. The former Masters champion suggested that captains were overrated and that they couldnt affect how someone was playing that particular week.
I cant help Tiger Woods play, Couples said. But if I can say, Hey, theres one less dinner to go to ... and thats the way I was looking at it. Thats just what I see.
Couples watched the Ryder Cup and was asked to pick an indelible image from Oakland Hills.
Probably Angie Everhart and Donald Trump on the stage before the thing started, he said. That was different. Very different.
DRUG ON STEROIDS
The PGA Tour does not have a policy against steroids, and six-time major winner Nick Faldo says golf doesnt need one.
Its been clean forever, probably because weve proven theres nothing out there we can take to enhance our performance, Faldo said Tuesday. So theres no point looking. Golf has a very good reputation and, fortunately, nothing in the wings is going to dent it.
Faldo said anyone who uses banned substances is cheating. And even if there were such a substance that would help a golfers performance, the games honor code and the stigma of cheating would prevail.
If you cheat with a pencil, youre gone for life, he said. Theres no soft stuff, where you go to six weeks of rehab to learn how to put in a 4 instead of a 3. The bottom line is theyre just cheating. And if you want to play golf, you forget about that from Day One.
ABC Sports analyst Judy Rankin is recovering from a nasty fall at the Tour Championship in which she broke her elbow and nose. All my bumps and bruises healed up and my elbow is coming along, said Rankin, who expects to return when ABC starts is tour coverage at Torrey Pines the third week of January. ... The Wachovia Championship has increased its purse to $6 million, with $1.08 going to the winner. The Byron Nelson Championship earlier raised its purse to $6.2 million, with $1.1 million for first place. They are the only two regular PGA Tour events over the $6 million mark. ... The U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links will require a handicap limit (18.4 or lower) next year.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Fred Couples played 16 times on the PGA Tour and won $1,396,109. He played four times in the silly season and won $1,105,000.
Hes not going to hit less balls. Hes not going to work out any less. I would find it hard to see Vijay being satisfied with his career and slowing down.'Brad Faxon.
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