Players qualify for the Masters in several ways, but the most noticeable is to have a win during the preceding season or be ranked inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).
Geoff Ogilvy is currently on the bubble at No. 50. Ryo Ishikawa was granted an exemption by the Masters Committee, but his runner-up finish in Puerto Rico moved him inside the top 50 to No. 47. Ben Crane at No. 48 and Kyle Stanley at No. 49 will also need to keep playing well to maintain their top-50 status.
Here are the 10 best players currently outside the top 50 OWGR, that are not eligible for the 2012 Masters, but could make a move over the next three weeks to get into the elite field at Augusta:
No. 51, Miguel Angel Jimenez, the most interesting man in golf, has played in six events in 2012 and only has one top-10 finish. One high finish over the next couple of weeks should place Jimenez securely inside the top 50.
No. 52, Retief Goosen, has played in just three events on the PGA Tour in 2012. He finished T-33, T-34, and T-45—not very impressive numbers. He did have a runner-up and third-place finish in South Africa in January, but has not had much success since.
No. 54, Jonathan Byrd, has two top tens, two missed cuts, a T-33 and a T-35 in six starts this year. He had a win, five top tens, and finished 27th in the FedEx Cup for 2011. Byrd is a very steady technician who has had some success at Augusta.
No. 55, Y. E. Yang, stared down Tiger Woods to win the 2009 PGA Championship. He has made four cuts in six starts in 2012, but only has one top 25. In 2011 Yang was inside the top 25 eight times in 18 events, and finished the year ranked 30th on the FedEx Cup.
No. 56, Robert Rock, out-dueled Tiger in the desert in Abu Dhabi in January. He made it through two rounds in the WGC-Accenture Match Play and finished T-24 in the WGC-Cadillac last week. He will need another high finish over the next couple weeks to move into the top 50. Anyone with hair like his should get an automatic invite anyway.
No. 58, Gary Woodland, the long hitter had a very successful winter season, teaming with Matt Kuchar to win the Omega World Championship. He will also be defending this week at the Transitions Championship. Look for Woodland to have a high finish and make a big move on the world rankings. He is just too good to miss out on the Masters.
No. 61, Jim Furyk, pocketed $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup in 2010, but had a less-than-successful season in 2011. Furyk, who is normally a top-10 machine only posted four such finishes in 2011, and finished 37th in the FedEx Cup. He has made three cuts in four starts this year, but only has a T-11 as his best finish. Severe putting woes have moved Furyk down the rankings.
No. 62, Charles Howell III, is a veteran who knows what it takes to get it done. He had seven top tens, 15 top 25's, and finished 19th in the 2011 FedEx Cup standings. He has made six of seven cuts in 2012 and has a second-place finish, plus two other top 25's, thus far in 2012. He is a Florida guy, and I expect him to turn in good tournaments in the Transitions and the Palmer over the next two weeks.
No. 63, Matteo Manassero, does not turn 20 years old until next month, but has already played in 50 events. He is in his third full year on the European Tour, has two wins and 40 made cuts. He is so young that his body has not completely developed, and he is working to increase his strength and length off the tee. This youngster will be around the top 50 in the world for a long time and will play in many major championships.
No. 68, Ernie Els, is another golfer with serious putting problems. Ernie has two U.S. Open trophies and a Claret Jug at home on the mantle. He has been a top player for more than 20 years. Els did make it through the first two rounds of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, has made four cuts, and has two top 25's in 2012. He is trending up, but needs a high finish over the next three weeks to solidify his invitation to Augusta.
All of these players will be grinding over the next three weeks to make it into the Masters field the first week of April.