Masters invitation on the line at Tampa Bay


PALM HARBOR, Fla. – No one knows what to expect Sunday at the Tampa Bay Championship, what with 16 players separated by only three shots and the top three players on the leaderboard consisting of a 40-year-old former major champion playing on a one-time exemption, a journeyman who hasn’t won in 152 starts and a South African who is making only his eighth career PGA Tour appearance. It could be a chaotic final day at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.

There’s also a good chance that a player could earn a Masters berth on Sunday.

Among the top 16 at the start of the day, only George Coetzee (T-1), Jim Furyk (T-4) and Luke Donald (T-8) were eligible for the Masters, meaning that 13 of the top 16 could earn a trip to Augusta National with a victory here. That group includes one of the co-leaders, Justin Leonard, who has not played the Masters since 2010, as well as former University of Georgia teammates Brian Harman (T-8) and Harris English (T-13), who used to play a practice round at Augusta each year with the team and could join Russell Henley in the field.

The top 50 in the world rankings at the end of this month also earn a spot in the year’s first major.