NEW YORK Augusta National won't have to worry about overcrowding at the Masters. Despite changing its criteria, it appears the field for next year's tournament will not top 100 players, which is what the club wants.
With an overhaul of the PGA Tour schedule and format, the Masters revamped its qualifying this year to invite winners of PGA Tour events that get full FedEx Cup points, those who qualified for the Tour Championship at the end of the FedEx Cup season, and those who finished in the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list.
The Masters will be played April 10-13 and the field will not be set until the Shell Houston Open the previous week. But here's how it's shaping up after the first year of the new criteria:
Twenty-two players already have qualified by finishing in the top 30, making the Tour Championship field or winning. Camilo Villegas, who would not have qualified for the Masters under the old system, was the only player at East Lake who did not finish in the top 30 on the money list.
Nick Watney (New Orleans), Brian Bateman (Buick Open) and Jonathan Byrd (John Deere) only qualified by winning tournaments. And only one player, Steve Flesch, was added to the field in the top 30 category through the money earned during the Fall Finish.
Under the previous criteria of top 40 on the money list, 23 players would have qualified. The five players who finished inside the top 40 were Justin Leonard, Carl Pettersson, Ken Duke, Sean O'Hair and Henrik Stenson.
Stenson will qualify as top 50 in the world ranking at the end of 2007. There are two weeks left of worldwide events that get ranking points, and among those on the bubble are Anders Hansen (No. 49), Rod Pampling (No. 52) and Bradley Dredge (No. 53). If there are no changes, 11 players will be added to the Masters field by the end of the month.
Going into the 2008 season, about 85 players will have qualified. The only spots up for grabs until April will be winners from 14 tournaments and anyone who gets into the top 50 by the end of March.
So for the field to be more than 100, different players would have to win every week who aren't already eligible. And that's about as likely as Martha Burk being invited to the club for peach cobbler.
The Masters had 97 players compete last year, and no fewer than 92 players over the last five years.