The Masters is by far the most prestigious major in golf and it is also the most difficult to qualify for. The pressure to receive the coveted Masters invitation builds up on Tour as the final countdown begins the few weeks leading up to the event.
This year the Masters has 96 players competing, large by Masters standards, but very small compared to the other three majors, which usually round out around 156. This makes a ticket to Augusta very special for all players and it also means that some very good players are left out in the cold.
Last week at the Shell Houston Open, Vaughn Taylor came so close, losing on the first playoff hole to Anthony Kim. It was difficult watching Taylor’s hopes of returning to Augusta, his home town, fade away as Kim sunk his par putt. The grind for some players to make the Masters must be intense. I cannot help but think that for some of these players the Masters is on their minds when they tee it up in Hawaii at the beginning of the season.
Some make it either by winning on Tour or cracking the top 50 in the OWGR system two weeks out and others just miss out on an event they could have played well in; not to mention a chance of a lifetime. These are my top five players who I think should be at Augusta this week:
1.) Rickie Fowler
Fowler burst onto the scene in last years Fall Series on the PGA Tour, finishing T2 at the Frys.com Open. Since then Fowler has recorded two top five finishes on Tour in 2010. He finished second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and got a T5 a couple of weeks prior at the Farmers Insurance Open. Fowler caught a lot of grief for laying up at the reachable par 5 fifteenth hole during the final round of the Waste Management, a decision that most likely cost him the championship. Fowler is definitely a future super star and he would have been fun to watch this week at the Masters.
2.) J.B. Holmes
Holmes is close to cracking the top ten in the race for the FedEx Cup standings and has played solid so far this year. He’s racked up three top 5’s this season and looks poised to make a run at winning following the Masters. Holmes is one of the longest drivers on Tour and his aggressive play would have put all of Augusta National’s seventy four hundred plus yards to the test.
3.) Justin Rose
This guy needs to be at the Masters this week. Rose plays well at Augusta and has proven that in the past. Rose has racked up three top 15 finishes and one top 5 this year. He lacks in FedEx Cup points at the moment, but should make it all the way to the Tour Championship in September if he continues to progress. Rose’s game is well suited for Augusta and he would have made some noise this week.
4.) Charles Howell III
The Augusta native has seemed to turn the corner this season. He’s currently in the top 25 in the FedEx Cup point's race and has finished twice in the top 5 and one top 10 at the Farmers. Howell is a very dynamic player and would have been interesting to follow during his hometown event.
5.) Ryuji Imada
Imada has become a familiar name in the majors. Last year he competed in all four majors, but failed to qualify himself for the Masters after a somewhat slow start to 2010. He’s played well though, making six out of seven cuts and posting two top ten’s; the most recent one coming at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Imada however has slipped to 44th in FedEx Cup points. Imada is a talented player and has all the tools to get back in major championships, he just needed a better start to the season to make the Masters.