AUGUSTA, Ga. — There will be more players than ever around for the weekend for the Masters, which begins Thursday morning.
Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne announced Wednesday that the number of players who will make the Masters’ 36-hole cut has been increased to 50 (plus any player within 10 strokes of the lead), up from 44 (plus those within 10 strokes).
The cut had included the low 44 players since 1962 and had been at 40 players plus ties since the cut was instituted in 1957.
“More than 50 years later, we believe offering more playing opportunities for the participants over the weekend is a positive for everyone,” said Payne.
Payne also announced a few changes that will make it tougher to qualify automatically for the Masters. The top 12 Masters finishers from the previous year (down from 16) and the top four from the U.S. Open (from eight) earn automatic spots. Also, the exemption of finishing in the top 30 of the money list has been eliminated. These changes will help keep the field as small as possible (there are 93 players entered this year).
In his news conference Thursday, Payne also talked about Augusta National’s first two female members – Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.
“It’s just awesome,” Payne said of Rice and Moore’s memberships.
Payne was also noncommittal on the issue of anchored putters – something the PGA Tour opposes but the U.S. Golf Association and Great Britain’s R&A are in favor of.
“We hope they can reach common ground so that golf will continue under one set of rules,” Payne said.
Par 3: Ted Potter Jr. won the Masters’ Par 3 Tournament, beating Matt Kuchar on a second sudden-death playoff hole. Potter and Kuchar finished the nine-hole event tied with Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Nick Watney (all with 23s). Potter and Kuchar birdied the first playoff hole (the other three were eliminated with pars), and Potter sank a birdie putt to win it on the second hold.
The victory doesn’t bode well for Potter the rest of the week: The par 3 winner has never won the Masters. Potter won last year’s Greenbrier Classic – his only career victory – to qualify for the Masters.
Among the celebrities on hand for the Par 3 were pro tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, who is Rory McIlroy’s girlfriend and was his caddie. Former champions Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player – who will serve as honorary starters Thursday morning – also played in the Par 3.
New competition: In hopes of increasing the number of children playing golf, a youth skills golf competition called the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship was announced this week by the Masters Tournament Foundation, the USGA and the PGA of America. Local qualifying events are scheduled in 19 states and Washington, D.C., with the competition concluding at Augusta National in 2014.
By the numbers
2: Holes-in-one in the Par 3 contest, by Nick Watney (No. 9) and Ben Crenshaw (No. 7).
4: Inches from the hole at No. 2 by Angel Cabrera in the Par 3 Tournament, the closest non-hole-in-one shot of the day.
12: Widest margin of victory in the Masters (Tiger Woods, 1997).
52: Record for number of starts (Gary Player, 1957-2009).