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Will Zalatoris among trio of pros to earn last-minute Masters invites via Official World Golf Ranking position

March 29, 2021
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Harry How

Will Zalatoris seems destined to play in all four majors each season for the next two decades. Up until Monday, however, the rising star had yet to officially secure a spot in next week's Masters tournament.

Then, when Zalatoris ended up ranked 45th in the world on Monday morning (two spots higher than last week), he was locked in to Augusta. The WGC-Dell Match Play was the final deadline to qualify for the Masters via the Official World Golf Ranking, and anyone inside the top 50 on Monday morning that had not already earned a spot earned what remains the best invitation in golf.

Next week will be Zalatoris' first career Masters, which is somewhat surprising given his decorated amateur career. The former Wake Forest standout won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2014, then made the Walker Cup team three years later. But he was never able to advance to the final match of the U.S. Amateur, which earns you a spot in the Masters (Zalatoris reached the Round of 16 in 2017). The 24-year-old has appeared in a pair of U.S. Opens, including the most recent U.S. Open at Winged Foot, where he tied for sixth.

Also earning spots at Augusta were and Brian Harman and Scotland's Robert MacIntyre, who each made the Round of 16 at the WGC-Dell Match Play. MacIntyre, who was ranked 44th last week, stayed put at No. 44 on Monday, earning him an invitation to his first career Masters and what will be his fourth career start in a major championship.

Of the Zalatoris, MacIntyre, Harman trio, Harman was the only one to play his way into the Masters field. Coming in to Match Play, the two-time tour winner was on the outside looking in, sitting at 59th in the world and in need of a special performance at Austin Country Club. He lost his first match in group play to Patrick Cantlay, but won his next two in a row and earned a spot in a playoff against Cantlay, who lost his third match to Hideki Matsuyama. In sudden death, Harman won on the second playoff hole when Cantlay missed a five-footer for par.

In the knockout stage, Harman took down two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, 2 & 1, to advance to the quarterfinals. Even after losing 2 & 1 to Matt Kuchar, he had done enough to vault 10 spots in the OWGR, just sneaking inside the top 50 at the last minute. Now, Harman, who was born in Georgia, went to school at the University of Georgia and still lives in Georgia, will get to play in the Masters for the first time since 2018, and only the third time of his career. In his first two appearances, he missed the cut and tied for 44th.

For players who have not qualified for the Masters, there is one final way to get in - win this week's Valero Texas Open. A number of well-known pros find themselves in this Hail Mary situation, including Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Erik van Rooyen, who are all in the field this week.