|ESPN.com: Masters 2006||[Print without images]|
|The 16th hole didn't always have a pond running the length of the hole.|
Wouldn't it be great for this week's BellSouth Classic if a player not already eligible for The Masters emerged to win and got a pass to drive down Magnolia Lane?
That's how it used to be, before Masters officials decided against the automatic exemption and instead instituted the Official World Golf Ranking as a measure for qualification, while also expanding the PGA Tour money list invitation to the top 40 from the previous year.
Although nobody at Augusta said so, the idea was to rid the tournament of the "fluke" winner who does not back up his victory with strong play. And perhaps there was some validity to the argument, with the numerous opposite events on the schedule.
The simple solution is to limit the "win-and-you're-in" invitation only to winners in the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule next year and also not offer it to winners of opposite events. That's a potential pool of just 37 players, many of whom will qualify in the other areas.
But for a few, it will be their only ticket to Augusta. And for tournaments within the FedEx window that don't traditionally draw the best fields, it will be one more thing to promote.
|Got a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer your inquiries in his column each week.
Q. How do you think Davis Love III will respond this week after going from having the lead at the Players to missing the cut?
A. He didn't have the BellSouth Classic on his schedule until that occurred Friday, so he obviously wants to use the tournament to work out the kinks in his game. The way to look at it is Love shot 65 in the opening round without a bogey. He can't be that far off. But this is a good move, to try and erase the sting quickly.
Q. How many other players have led a tournament after the first round only to miss the cut the next day?
A. It is rare. The PGA Tour does not keep the statistic for all players who have done so, but the last to do it before Love was Brian Kortan, who was in an eight-way tie for the lead at the 2004 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee after a 65, then shot 79 the next day. Rod Pampling led the first round of the British Open at Carnoustie in 1999, then missed the cut the next day.
Q. With a T-13 finish last year, Ryan Moore qualified for this year's Masters. Since he won't play due to an injury, will he still be able to roll over this invitation to 2007 or is that strictly up to Augusta National?
A. According to Masters qualification procedure, the invitation goes to players who finished among the top 16 and ties at the previous year's tournament. That would suggest no. Although The Masters can do what it wants, it is unlikely it would extend the invitation. Moore will have other opportunities to play his way into next year's field.
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.