THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Joost Luiten better hope his decision to hit one shot at the BMW Masters doesn't keep him out of that other "Masters."
This is the last big week of tournaments around the world as players try to finish inside the top 50 to earn an invitation to Augusta National in April. Luiten is at No. 52 going into the European Tour’s Nedbank Challenge, but here's where it gets interesting.
Luiten had a sore shoulder in Shanghai. He had to play two of three "Final Series" events on the European Tour to be eligible for the finale in Dubai. So he chose to hit one shot off the first tee at Lake Malaren in the BMW Masters and withdraw. He rested his shoulder for two weeks, played Turkey and then tied for fourth in Dubai.
However, that added one tournament to his total in the world ranking formula. If he had not been required to play the BMW Masters, Luiten would be at No. 49.
Ultimately, however, his performance will dictate whether he gets into the Masters. Even though it's late in the year, the fields on three continents are packed with good players at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in California, the UBS Hong Kong Open (also a European Tour event) and the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.
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The strongest field is in California, though it will have no bearing on the Masters because all 18 players at Sherwood are already eligible (and all of them are in the top 30).
Miguel Angel Jimenez (No. 48) is playing in Hong Kong, by far the weakest of the three fields. If he doesn't play well, the Spaniard risks being passed in the ranking by Richard Sterne (No. 51) or Luiten in South Africa. Also playing in South Africa are Gary Woodland (No. 57 but already in the Masters), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (No. 60) and Peter Uihlein (No. 67).
The final tournament of the year is the Nelson Mandela Invitational, though the field is expected to be weak. Among those expected to play are Branden Grace, currently at No. 50.
For the players who don't quite crack the top 50, Augusta National takes the top 50 one week before the Masters. Then again, Geoff Ogilvy missed the top 50 by one shot in Australia at the end of last year and went backward at the start of a new season.