Augusta National will not commit to advising if it will honour a 2020 Masters invitation to those players currently inside the top-50 on the World Rankings as of Monday morning March 30th (Irish time).
The Georgia-based Masters organising club was approached by Irish Golfer Magazine with a leading official replying:
“Unfortunately, it would be premature to share our thinking on the reschedule or the field. We will make sure to share this information as soon as it becomes available.”
One of those affected is Graeme McDowell who should be waking-up in his Florida home this morning (Monday March 30th U.S. time) with concrete confirmation he is returning to the Masters for a first occasion since 2016.
McDowell is currently ranked 49th in the world and would be exempt via this penultimate means in receiving an invitation into the 2020 Masters. The last invitation would’ve been to win this week’s Valero Texas Open in San Antonio as Scot Martin Laird brilliantly secured in 2013.
However, the worldwide deadly Coronavirus has changed everything sending the world into ‘lockdown’ mode.
Had McDowell headed this coming week to Texas, as he was planning, a letter would have arrived at his Lake Nona residence postmarked ‘Augusta, GA’.
Inside the envelope, as has long been the tradition with Augusta National, is a specially personalised invitation, just as Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones had first wished, to tee-up in this year’s 84th hosting of the Masters.
Scotland’s Sandy Lyle received his first Masters invitation in 1980 and in just his seventh appearance he was fitted with the famed members green jacket.
And even now as a past champion, Lyle is the recipient each year of a mailed invitation with this year to mark his 39th Masters.
“It is one of those traditions Augusta does so well. Even though I’ve been attending the Masters since I was 22-years of age, there’s still that sense of excitement,” said Lyle.
“All the former champions are the same. You know you’re on the mailing list but to get that letter in the post each year does make the Masters extra special.”
With the Masters postponed to the end of the year the big question is, will those inside the top-50 on March 30, should the virus fears ease, receive an invitation in what many are predicting will be the 8th to 11th October rescheduling of this year’s tournament?
The men’s World Rankings were suspended on March 16th with just four players inside the top-50 but not yet officially exempt for the Masters.
The four are the Americans Collin Morikawa (44th) and Scottie Scheffler (45th) along with newly-engaged South African Christian Bezuidenhout (47th) and McDowell (49th).
Organisers of the Summer Olympics have set an example in postponing the 32nd Olympiad to 2021 and in the process guaranteeing to honour all 11,091 (expected) athletes who were due to Japan to be eligible to now compete in 2021.
In golf, it would mean a UK golf team featuring 2016 Olympic Gold medal winning Justin Rose teaming with Tommy Fleetwood.
“It’s something that’s been an amazing gift to my career and to be announced on the first tee for so long as the Olympic champion is something special and I get it for an extra year now,” said Rose.
“Another year’s bragging rights which is really going to frustrate my fellow pros. I think they were getting pretty fed up with it to be honest!”
With the U.S. Open looking to be the next Major to be postponed it will put even more pressure on both the European Tour and PGA of America to push back the September hosting of the 2020 Ryder Cup a year, as was the scenario three weeks after the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks.
‘GMac’ rose to 47th and back inside the world’s top-50 for a first time since June 2015 in winning the Saudi Invitational but in teeing-up earlier this month in the now cancelled Players Championship, he was ranked No. 51.
And though the Players did not attract World Rankings points, McDowell found himself back to No. 49 in the world and hoping now to be returning to the Masters for a first occasion in four years.
“Hopefully, if Augusta National go with their original March 30th deadline then I will be fine,” said McDowell.
“Also, with the Rankings now suspended I would hope also Augusta National honour those currently inside the top-50, and not exempt, with an invitation as that would seem only fair.
“It’s all unprecedented territory at present and all we can do is wait out this suspension and be ready when it comes.”