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  • Alistair Tait

Time For Masters Meditation?

Well done Lucas Herbert on winning the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, the Australian’s first PGA Tour victory in just his 20th start on the world's best golf circuit. It comes with a lot of baubles.

However, his win might just have the green jackets at Augusta National reviewing the entry criteria for the first men’s major of the year.

Along with a cheque for $1.7 million, Herbert earned 500 FedEx Cup points and a two-year PGA Tour exemption. He also moved 14 positions on the Official World Golf Ranking to 43rd. What else? A first trip down Magnolia Lane to make his Masters debut.

“The next 12 months are going to be really cool,” Herbert said. “Definitely gets me into the Masters and Kapalua (Sentry Tournament of Champions at the start of next year). It’s going to be lots of fun.”

Sure is, especially that Masters debut. Once again, well done Lucas, who would have got into Augusta next year if he’d kept his world top 50 status. However, surely the Masters has to look at giving automatic spots to players who win PGA Tour events? Especially weak-field PGA Tour events like the Bermuda tournament.

As all and sundry pointed out last week, the Bermuda tournament couldn’t fill all 132 tee times for various reasons. Only 126 players teed it up including, as former colleague Geoff Shackleford pointed out, 34 players not in the world top 1,000. World number 1,818 Olin Browne got a spot, and he’s 62.

No wonder the tournament had a strength of field (SoF) of just 68, as rated by the Official World Golf Ranking.

Bermuda had the fifth lowest SoF tournament on this year’s PGA Tour. Only the Barbasol Championship (17), Puerto Rico Open (28), Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship (33), and Barracuda Championship (50) have had weaker fields. Winners of those tournaments don’t get Masters invites since they are held the same week as the World Golf Championships and The Open.

There have been 14 “regular” European Tour events this year with higher strength of field ratings than the Bermuda tournament. Min Woo Lee won this year’s abrdn Scottish Open, the strongest tournament on 2021 European Tour outside the majors and world golf championships. It had a strength of field of 424, yet that victory did not earn Lee a Masters invite. The Australian is 58th on the Official World Golf Ranking. He’ll make the trip to Augusta next Spring if he can get inside the world top 50.

You probably won’t see Frenchman Antoine Rozner at Augusta National next Spring, even if he did win the Qatar Masters, which had a SoF of 69.

Of course, the green jackets are a law unto themselves. It’s their tournament, their course and they can invite whoever they want. No one has the right to quibble with that. Besides, the Masters field is now truly international after years of shutting out all but the crème de la crème of international golf. However, you have to think the green jackets on the Masters tournament committee might just be rethinking its entry policy of inviting all winners of PGA Tour events after Herbert’s Bermuda bonanza.

It’s surely time for a wee bit of Masters Meditation?

#JustSaying: “Playing Augusta is like playing a Salvador Dali landscape. I expected a clock to fall out of the trees and hit me in the face.” David Feherty

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