Better late than never
Masters 2022: Fortunate five grab last-minute invites to Augusta National
With a victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, Thomas Pieters jumped safely inside the top 50 in the World Ranking, allowing him to grab a late invite to Augusta National.
Better late than never. That has to be the outlook for five players who on Monday morning officially qualified for the Masters, potentially the last players into this year’s field at Augusta National.
With the first round of the first men’s major of 2022 less than two weeks away, among the final ways to get into the field was by virtue of being in the top 50 in the World Ranking as of March 28. Of those players, just five had yet to already earn an invitation.
A hat tip then to Thomas Pieters (No. 34), Harold Varner III (40), Seamus Power (41), Russell Henley (42) and Cameron Young (47). Varner, Power and Young will be making their first starts at Augusta.
For Pieters and Varner, the eventual invite essentially had been in hand for a little while; the two won events in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, respectively, earlier in 2022 that jumped them safely into the top 50. Henley moved in as well when he finished second to Hideki Matsuyama in a playoff at the Sony Open.
Harold Varner III will be making his Masters debut in two weeks.
Power, however, was 48th to start the week, and potentially could have fallen out of the top 50 with a poor showing at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play Championship. Yet the 35-year-old Irishman managed to go 2-1 in group play to reach the knockout round, and safely secure his first Masters invite.
Similarly, Young started the week in Austin 45th in the World Ranking. Although the PGA Tour rookie failed to get through group play, he was able to stay inside the bubble.
While this fivesome can enjoy a bit of a victory lap, there were a handful of players who disappointingly found themselves on the other side of the top 50 line. Cameron Tringale was ranked 51st entering Match Play, but failed to advance out of group play and fell to 52nd. Richard Bland, the 49-year-old Englishman trying to grab his first career Masters invite, did get into the knockout stage, allowing him to jump from 60th when he started play in Austin. But unfortunately he needed to get through Saturday morning’s Round of 16 match with Dustin Johnson to get inside the top 50, and instead finishing 53rd.
The one other golfer sitting between 51st and 60th in the new World Ranking on Monday who is not in the field at Augusta is Alex Noren at 55th.
There is one last way to qualify for the Masters: win next week’s Valero Texas Open. It’s no easy task, of course, but after his Saturday morning loss, Bland, playing in San Antonio on a sponsor’s exemption, was excited to give it a shot. Tringale and Noren, however, are not in the field.