How Golfers Qualify to Play In the Masters Tournament

18 Qualifying Criteria That Lead to a Masters Invitation

The Masters Tournament logo
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The Masters golf tournament is technically an invitational. But that doesn't mean that a committee of Augusta National Golf Club members sits down and decides who gets to play and who doesn't. There are qualifying criteria for playing in The Masters, and a golfer who meets one of those criteria automatically qualifies to receive an invitation to play.

So, what are those Masters qualifications? Changes and tweaks to the qualifying criteria are made over time, but the most recent Masters qualification requirements are listed below.

There are 18 of them; they are listed in order and in bold-face, along with, in some cases, a bit of explanation or context.

Masters Invitations Go To ...

1. Masters Tournament champions

If you win The Masters, you get a lifetime exemption to continue playing in the tournament for as long as you like. In the early 2000s, that was about to change - an age limit of 65-and-under was scheduled to go into effect beginning in 2004, along with a minimum participation standard. But that rule was rescinded before it went into effect after lobbying by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

However, today past champions are, ahem, "encouraged" to stop playing once they reach a point their score might be called embarrassing.

So while it's a lifetime exemption for past champions, the spirit of this qualifying criteria is that past champs can play The Masters as long as they aren't embarrassing themselves or the tournament with very bad scores.

2. Past five U.S. Open champions

To put it another way, a golfer who wins the U.S. Open receives a 5-year exemption into The Masters.

3. Past five British Open champions

4. Past five PGA Championship winners

In the case of each major, after five years, the exemption becomes honorary and non-competing. That means winners of the other majors can still show up at Augusta National during The Masters, practice on the course, sign up for the Par-3 Tournament if they wish, but lose the exemption into The Masters Tournament itself.

5. Past three winners of The Players Championship

A 3-year Masters exemption for each Players Championship winner, in other words.

6. Current U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up

The U.S. Amateur is a match play tournament, so getting into the championship match - even if you lose it - gets you into the The Masters. However, the golfers who qualify via this category must still be amateurs at the time of The Masters; turning pro forfeits the Masters invitation.

7. Current British Amateur champion

Like the U.S. Amateur qualifiers, the British Amateur champ must still be an amateur at the time of The Masters. Unlike the U.S. Amateur exemption, only the British Am champ (not the runner-up) receives a Masters invitation.

8. Current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion

9. Current Latin America Amateur champion

The exemptions for the winners of the Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin American Amateur championships are the most-recent additions to the list of qualifying criteria for The Masters. In fact, Augusta National Golf Club was instrumental in the launch of both tournaments, using them to help grow golf in those respective geographic areas and further "internationalize" The Masters field.

10. Current U.S. Mid-Amateur champion

The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship is open to amateur golfers ages 25 and older. The effect of this qualifying criteria is to get a career amateur into The Masters field each year.

11. The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year's Masters Tournament

If you can't win The Masters, you can still guarantee you get to come back next year by finishing inside the Top 12.

12. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year's U.S. Open Championship

13. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year's British Open Championship

14. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year's PGA Championship

15. Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters

The "full-point allocation" is key, and it's FedEx Cup points that are being talked about here.

Opposite-field tournaments on the PGA Tour (those played the same week as another, bigger tournament) do not award full FedEx Cup points. So winning one of those lower-point events does not carry with it automatic entry into The Masters.

16. Those qualifying for the previous year's season-ending Tour Championship

The Tour Championship's field is made up of the top 30 golfers in the FedEx Cup point standings.

17. The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year

18. The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament

Also note that Augusta National's Masters Committee reserves the right to invite any international golfer its sees fit who is not otherwise qualified.

These Masters qualifications usually result in a tournament field of from 90 to 100 players.