Qualifying for The Masters: How Golfers Earn Their Invitations

What does it take to make the field at The Masters Tournament? It takes meeting the qualifying criteria, which triggers Augusta National Golf Club to send an invitation to play.

The qualifying criteria for The Masters is split into 19 "exemption categories." As long as a golfer qualifies for at least one of those exemptions, he (or even she, there is nothing in the rules that says a woman golfer is ineligible for The Masters) will receive an invitation.

The exemption categories are determined by The Masters Tournament Committee at Augusta National. Members of that committee sometimes tweak the qualifying criteria, but always with at least a year's notice.

Masters Tournament Exemption Categories

(Note that Augusta National refers to these as "invitation categories." We're using "exemption" in this article because that term is used across the professional golf landscape.)

The following exemption categories are how golfers qualify to play in The Masters:

Winners of the Biggest Pro Tournaments

1. Masters Tournament champions (lifetime).
2. U.S. Open champions (5 years).
3. British Open champions (5 years).
4. PGA Championship wnners (5 years).
5. Winners of The Players Championship (3 years).
6. Current Olympic Gold Medalist (1 year).

If you win The Masters, you get to come back every year.

If you win one of the other three majors, your exemption into The Masters lasts five years. After that, you'll be invited back to tournament week (you can play practice rounds, hang out, even play the Par-3 Tournament) but can't play The Masters unless you meet another qualifying criteria.

Another way to state the exemptions related to the other majors: The last five champions at each of the majors are exempt. The last three winners of The Players Championship receive invitations.

Winners of the Biggest Amateur Tournaments

7. Current U.S. Amateur champion and the runner-up to the current U.S. Amateur champion.
8. Current British Amateur champion.
9. Current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion.
10. Current Latin America Amateur champion.
11. Current U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.

All of the amateur exemptions include the stipulation that the golfer must still be playing as an amateur in order to play in The Masters. Note that the U.S. and British amateur champs continue receiving honorary invitations (they can attend, play practice rounds, etc.) even after their one-year exemption into the tournament field expires.

Highest Finishers in Most-Recent Majors

12. The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year's Masters Tournament.
13. The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year's US Open Championship.
14. The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year's British Open Championship.
15. The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year's PGA Championship.

PGA Tour Winners/Ranking Leaders

16. Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters.
17. Those qualifying for the previous year's season-ending Tour Championship.

No. 16 does not apply to opposite-field tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, because they do not award full FedEx Cup points. No. 17 is just another way of saying the Top 30 in the previous year's FedEx Cup point standings.

World Golf Rankings Top 50

18. The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year.
19. The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament.

There is also a 20th category of exemption: Any other international golfer The Masters wants to invite. If the Tournament Committee feels someone who did not meet any of the qualifying criteria above still deserves to play in the tournament, they can issue an invitation. But again, this route into The Masters field applies only to international players.

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