Notes Masters Qualifying Howell Moves On

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- For Colombian rookie Camilo Villegas, the road to the Masters might end in the parking lot of the TPC at Sawgrass.
 
The Players Championship is the final week to qualify for the Masters, with the top 50 in the world ranking and top 10 on the PGA Tour money list getting invitations to Augusta National. Villegas tied for second in Phoenix and at Doral to move up to 15th, but he needs one more start.

Kenny Perry and Joey Snyder had to withdraw, leaving the field at 144 players. If anyone else withdraws, Villegas is the first alternate. Even if he gets in, Villegas likely will have to at least finish eighth.
 
Also on the bubble is another rookie, J.B. Holmes.
 
The winner of the FBR Open, Holmes was in the top 10 on the money list until Rod Pampling won last week at Bay Hill, bumping Holmes to No. 11 by about $52,000.
 
'I can't really focus on that,' Holmes said. 'If I get to play in the Masters this year, great. If not, I'm sure I'll make it in there before my career is over with. That would be something phenomenal to play.'
 
Another player with the Masters on his mind is Greg Owen.
 
The Englishman could have secured an invitation last week with a win at Bay Hill, but he three-putted from 3 feet on the 17th hole Sunday and finished second. Even so, Owen moved up from No. 95 to No. 53, and while it depends on what happens around him, a top 25 at Sawgrass might be enough to get him into the top 50.
 
The Madeira Open on the European tour could affect the ranking, although the only person on the bubble playing there is Niclas Fasth, who is No. 56.
 
Anyone who can drop out of the top 10 on the money list or the top 50 in the world ranking already is eligible for the Masters in other categories.
 
MOVING ON
Charles Howell III has changed swing coaches, ending a relationship with David Leadbetter that began when he was 12.
 
Howell now is working with Bryan Mogg, whose clients include Bart Bryant and Brad Faxon.
 
'It was time for a change,' Howell said. 'I had been with David a long time. This is another person looking at my golf game. I'm working on the same stuff, but it's packaged differently.'
 
Howell said it was difficult to leave Leadbetter, and that they spoke over the weekend.
 
'Our relationship has not changed,' he said. 'We're still friends.'
 
LEARNING CURVE
Dean Wilson was hitting chips on the practice green at Bay Hill when Joey Sindelar walked by on his way from the ninth green to the 10th tee.
 
'Who are you? Mr. Leaderboard?' Sindelar called out to him.
 
Wilson is becoming a regular fixture atop the leaderboard on the PGA Tour. The trick now is to stay there over the weekend, although he feels as though he is making progress. Wilson closed with rounds of 73-72 at Bay Hill to finish tied for 10th, his third top-10 of the year.
 
'I've got to figure it out, how to get it done on the weekend,' Wilson said. 'I know the courses are going to be harder, so I need to play better.'
 
Wilson is trying to get more comfortable, and he says it helps to be paired with marquee players. The last month has been a crash course -- Phil Mickelson in the final round at Doral, Sergio Garcia in the third round at Bay Hill and Vijay Singh in the final round at Bay Hill.
 
'It's a great experience to be paired with those guys,' Wilson said. 'I watch how they go about their business, and how my game stacks up against theirs.'
 
Meanwhile, no one stacks up to Wilson for his ironman ways this year. He is the only player to have competed in every event for which he is eligible. The Players Championships is his 11th in a row. If he doesn't win, Wilson will have to go home in two weeks during the Masters.
 
MOORE OUT
The pain Ryan Moore first felt in his left hand last summer finally caught up with him. He plans to have surgery Monday to repair a fractured bone in his left hand.
 
Despite the injury, Moore became the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to earn his PGA Tour card through sponsor's exemptions without ever having to go through Q-school. But the pain never went away, and Moore has made only two cuts in his first five starts, his best finish a tie for 40th in Phoenix.
 
Moore is expect to be out as many as two months.
 
Surgery means he will miss the Masters, where a year ago he tied for 13th as an amateur to earn a trip back.
 
SHOOT YOUR AGE
If this is supposed to be a reality show, here's the reality -- to qualify for a tournament with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, a player had better be old and good.
 
The event is called 'Shoot Your Age Championship,' to be televised May 7 on CBS Sports at The Villages course near Orlando, Fla. Players only have to pay a $350 entry and have a valid driver's license or passport. The top 34 players will advance to final round and compete against Palmer and Player.
 
Both Hall-of-Famers have shot their age in Champions Tour events.
 
'A golfer has to have mixed feelings about shooting his or her age,' Palmer said. 'It's an exciting day when and if it happens, but it also means that you have to be up in years.'
 
Palmer shot 66 on his 66th birthday in the final round of the GTE Northwest Classic in Seattle in 1995.
 
'It's become easier and easier every year since then,' Palmer said.
 
DIVOTS
The Ladies European Tour is offering a $1 million bonus for what can best be described as a Nordic Grand Slam. The tour has a program called the Volvo XC Challenge, in which a player will earn the $1 million bonus by winning all four LET events in the Nordic region -- the Ladies Norwegian Masters, the Scandinavian TPC in Sweden, the Finnair Masters in Finland and the Nykredit Masters in Denmark. ... The Georgia Cup will be a European affair for the first time in its nine-year history. The match between the U.S. Amateur champion (Edoardo Molinari of Italy) and British Amateur champion (Brian McElhinney of Ireland) will be March 29 at The Golf Club of Georgia.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Sandy Lyle (1987) and Craig Perks (2002) are the only players to win The Players Championship and not finish in the top 30 to qualify for the Tour Championship.
 
FINAL WORD
'Never say never. I mean, I never thought we'd emulate NASCAR.' -- Jeff Sluman, on whether The Players Championship will ever be considered a major.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship