This weeks Shell Houston Open is the last chance for PGA Tour players to make a final push and make it on the most prestigious roster in golf. For some, if they don’t win this tournament all together, they’ll have to wait another year to make it to the Masters.
So far, 94 players are exempt to play in the opening major of the year, with the winner of the Shell Houston Open joining them. There are 19 categories of exemptions at The Masters. Some of them are the usual ones you get at all four majors. Others are specific just to the traditions at Augusta:
- Masters Champions (Lifetime invitation)
- US Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)
- British Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)
- PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)
- The Players Championship winners (Three years)
- Current Olympic Gold Medalist (One year)
- Current US Amateur Champion (7-A) (Honorary, non-competing after one year); Runner-up (7-B) to the current US Amateur Champion
- Current British Amateur Champion (Honorary, non-competing after one year)
- Current Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion
- Current Latin America Amateur Champion
- Current US Mid-Amateur Champion
- The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament
- The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s US Open
- The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s British Open
- The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship
- Individual winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters
- Those qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship
- The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year
- The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament
Players like Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth will be using this tournament as practice for their already secured spot on the greens of Augusta National, where many others still unsure of their place in the major.
Last year, Jim Herman held off a final round challenge with Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson to claim his spot on top of the leaderboard in Houston and in the roster for the Masters. Matt Jones in 2014 and D.A Points in 2013 claimed their Masters spot the same way. Matt Jones and Jim Herman need to repeat their success if they’re to return to Augusta this time around.
Rookie Andrew “Beef” Johntson and Luke Donald are looking to make the already 11 rostered Englishmen into a nice dozen. After making a top-10 finish at last week’s Puerto Rico Open, Beef made a late entry into the Houston event, while Luke Donald is looking to make it to his 12th Masters.
Charles Howell III is the highest-ranked player not already in next week’s field. Ranked at No. 64, Howell hasn’t missed one cut in eight events, although he hasn’t won an event since 2007.
Billy Horschel needs a first win since the 2014 Tour Championship, to avoid missing his first Masters in four years. On the other hand, Keegan Bradley’s five year exemption from the 2011 PGA Championship has just expired, making him need a win as well.
Beef isn’t the only Rookie on the Tour in need of a win in Houston to make it to the Masters. Rookie Grayson Murray recently asked a Playboy model to caddie for him during the par-3 contest at Augusta if he won the Shell Houston Open this week. Clearly he’s found a solid source of motivation to make this his first win on Tour.
Davis Love III, Hunter Mahan, Jonas Blixt, Tony Finau, and Steward Cink are all in need of a win this week to get into the most sought after major on Tour. All of these players are vying for the one spot atop the leaderboard, but only one can win to move on for a chance to win the green jacket.