With the season's first major fast approaching, this week marks the last opportunity for players to earn an invitation to the Masters by cracking the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
While this means several participants at the Shell Houston Open will be crunching numbers this weekend, a pair of players are in position to potentially make the field with wins thousands of miles from Augusta, Ga.
At No. 72 in the latest rankings, Marcel Siem appeared unlikely to make a trip down Magnolia Lane as recently as a few days ago. After rounds of 64 and 68 at the European Tour's Hassan Trophee II in Morocco, though, the German has now amassed a three-shot lead after 36 holes. Siem, who tied for 39th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this month, would likely vault into the top 50 with a win this week, which would earn him a spot at The Masters for the first time in his career.
Meanwhile in Thailand, Thongchai Jaidee has also played his way into position after two rounds at the Chiangmai Golf Classic. The Thai, who currently sits at No. 59 in the world ranking, is tied for second at the halfway point, just two shots off the lead of fellow countryman Prayad Marksaeng. A win would mean a third career trip to The Masters for Jaidee, who in 2006 became the first Thai to receive a special invitation from Augusta National Golf Club. Next month another Thai, Thaworn Wirachant, will benefit from a similar invitation.
For players still outside the top 50 in the world rankings after the next edition is published, just one option will remain to earn a spot in the field for the season's first major: a win at next week's Valero Texas Open.