Notes TOUR Winners Back in Masters


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- One perk from wining a PGA TOUR event used to be an invitation to the Masters, a practice that ended in 1999.
There's a chance it could return -- but not next year.
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday that qualifications for the Masters will be the same for 2007, 'but that's still on the table about the possibility of having winners.'
What likely will trigger the change is the new PGA TOUR schedule, built around the FedEx Cup points race. It starts in January with the Mercedes Championships and ends at the Tour Championship in late September.
Augusta National will have to decide whether winners of the Fall Series -- those events after the Tour Championship where players compete primarily to keep their cards -- also will get an invitation. Indications are they won't.
One reason the Masters went away from PGA TOUR winners becoming eligible were weak fields, such as opposite field events.
Eight players who won on TOUR since last year's Masters didn't qualify -- Tim Petrovic, Brad Faxon, Jason Gore, Robert Gamez, Heath Slocum, Russ Short Jr., Kirk Triplett and J.B. Holmes.
Three of them won opposite field events. Faxon likely would have qualified had he not missed the last two months of the 2005 season with knee surgery, and Holmes was in position on the money list until he struggled after winning in Phoenix.
Gary Player has been playing in the Masters since 1957, but hasn't made a cut since 1999.
But he still has some goals.
Player said Wednesday he wants to play in two more Masters after this year, which would give him 51 for his career.
'I want to play one more than Arnie,' Player said. 'I want to get to 51.'
Player has already surpassed Jack Nicklaus, who played in 45 Masters before calling it quits this year.
Player won't lead in wins, though, among the aging Masters stars. He has three, but Palmer has four and Nicklaus six.
Jack Nicklaus fans have his grandson to thank for the Golden Bear's appearance in the Par 3 contest.
Nicklaus played his final Masters last year, and hadn't really thought about playing in the Par 3 on Wednesday afternoon. While he was at a news conference for a golf course he's doing in Nashville, though, son Jackie asked if his father would change his mind if one of the grandkids caddied for him.
'Jackie said, `If Charlie wants to caddie, can he caddie?'' Nicklaus said, referring to Jackie's 11-year-old son, Charlie. 'I said, `Sure, I'll go play if Charlie wants to come up.''
But the youngster got a little more than he bargained for.
'I put my big bag on the airplane last night, and I told him I was going to put rocks in it,' Nicklaus said. 'He says, `Oh, God, you brought your big bag.' (I said), `Well, Charlie, I don't have a small bag.''
Ben Crane's caddie has to hope he has as much success in his sport as Crane had Wednesday in his.
Crane won the Par 3 contest, shooting a 4-under 23 to beat five players by a shot in the annual tournament adjacent to the big course.
On the bag was Drew Bledsoe, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Crane has a big job ahead of him in the Masters, which has never been won by a par-3 winner. His caddie also has some work to do, when he and Terrell Owens hook up for the Cowboys.
There were three hole-in-ones made in the par-3 contest, all on the 9th hole and all with pitching wedges.
Masters rookie Arron Oberholser was one of those sinking his tee shot, along with Tim Clark and Padraig Harrington.
There have been 61 aces made in the contest since its inception in 1960.
Colin Montgomerie has had far more success in the Ryder Cup than he has had in the Masters.
That doesn't mean he wants to talk about it right now.
The Scot was a bit taken aback when a reporter asked him how much he is thinking about this year's Ryder Cup, which will be played in September in Ireland.
'My God, let's just try and concentrate on this first and we'll get through the four majors first before we start discussing that problem in September,' Montgomerie said.
Montgomerie has played in 13 Masters, with his best finish a tie for eighth in 1998. The last two years he has missed the cut, last year after shooting an 80 in the second round.
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