For players who don’t have an invitation to next week’s Masters, the Shell Houston Open offers that last glimmer of hope. It’s simple: Win and you’re in the field at Augusta National.
That gives hope to several of the high-ranking players on the FedEx Cup list who haven’t yet sealed the deal. Guys like Kevin Chappel (No. 20 on the points list), Augusta’s Charles Howell III (No. 24), Tony Finau (No. 25) K.J. Choi (No. 27) and Sea Island’s Patton Kizzire (No. 34). Finau won the alternate tournament last week in Puerto Rico, but that victory does not count toward a Masters invitation.
The last chance has paid off twice since the Masters restored its win-and-in policy in 2008. Johnson Wagner won it in 2008 and famously traveled all night to arrive in Augusta bright and early Monday for his first appearance. Matt Jones took the drama a step further in 2014 when he beat Matt Kuchar in a playoff to earn his first invitation.
There are 33 Masters invitees competing in Houston, including Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson. New world No. 1-ranked Jason Day is taking the week off.
Even if a late-invitee does crash the party, the field for the Masters isn’t like to reach 90 this year for the first time since 2002. There are 89 players who have qualified, but that includes Tiger Woods, who isn’t likely to play.
The majors begin: The first professional major is this week in Palm Springs, site of the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship, formerly the Dinah Shore. Brittany Lincicome beat Stacy Lewis on the third playoff hole last year to win the event for the second time and celebrated with the customary leap into Poppie’s Pond. The event became recognized as a major in 1983.
Georgia PGA spotlighted on Golf Channel: As part of the PGA of America’s centennial celebration, the Georgia PGA Section was featured for its annual toy drive on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program. The Georgia PGA’s annual Pro-Pro Championship has donated more than 800 toys to local children.
The program also featured PGA professional Chris Cartwright of West Pines Golf Club in Douglasville, who was born with issues that required reconstructive surgeries and is now teaching golf to patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Around the Tours: Macon’s Russell Henley would like a mulligan on the past three months. In 2016, the University of Georgia grad has missed the cut in six of seven starts, including the past five. His best finish was a tie for 49th at the Career Builder. He’s 22 over in those six missed cuts. … Riviera Country Club finally found a way to get Tiger Woods back in the field for its tournament. He’s going to host it. Woods, who made his PGA Tour debut at Riviera, hasn’t played there since 2006. But the Tiger Woods Foundation will host it, with Hyundai as title sponsor. The Woods Foundation also hosts the Quicken Loans National and the Hero World Challenge. … Charlie Harrison of Atlanta finished eagle-birdie to shoot 65 and take a two-shot win at the Minor League Golf tour event in Palm City, Fla.