I've had a love affair with the Masters since I was a kid. I can list the last 15 champions and tell you where I was when they won. When Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket, in 1986, I was living in Berlin because my dad was an Army golf pro there. When Tiger kicked butt in '97, I was home in El Paso. So last May, after I had won my first PGA Tour event, the Kemper Open, you can understand how bummed I was when reporters asked me about finally getting to play in the Masters. "Check your facts, guys," I said. "This doesn't get me into Augusta."
Here's the catch: The Masters revamped its entry requirements last April, and winning a Tour event no longer gets you in. Now you have to place high in a major, finish in the top 40 on the Tour's money list the year before or be among the top 50 in the World Ranking a month before Augusta. Last season I was 67th in earnings, and I'm currently 124th in the ranking. I'm not the only guy getting left out in the cold. Olin Browne, Brad Faxon, Brian Henninger, J.L. Lewis and Tom Pernice Jr. also won Tour events in 1999 but don't have a Masters invitation.
Like a lot of my friends on Tour, I'm not happy with the new rules. I had the best week of my life on the hardest tour in the world. A victory on Tour should be rewarded with a trip to Augusta. There are many ways to get into the U.S. and British Opens and the PGA, but what made the Masters so special was that winning was basically the only way for a regular guy like me to qualify.
There's still an outside chance that I'll get in. I'm going to play all seven West Coast tournaments, and I'll be at Doral, the last tournament before the cutoff for making the top 50 in the world.
Nevertheless, if I could make one wish come true, it would be that the nice gentlemen at the Masters go back to the old rules and send me an invitation.