Lonard's putt earns ticket to Masters

Lonard’s putt earns ticket to Masters

(AP) — Peter Lonard figured the closest he would get to the Masters this year was in front of his television. Thanks to a 5-foot par putt on the final hole that he thought was only worth money, he was added to the field Monday by squeezing into the top 50 in the world ranking.

The Zurich Classic in New Orleans, where Lonard was the sole runner-up, was the final tournament for players not already eligible to qualify for the Masters through the world ranking. Justin Leonard and Martin Kaymer also joined the field at Augusta National, although they were well inside the top 50.

They were among eight players who earned a Masters invitation in the first three months of the 2008 season, either through the world ranking or by winning a full-strength PGA Tour event.

Lonard was at No. 72 and figured he had to win the Zurich Classic.

He was one shot behind Andres Romero and faced a 45-foot birdie putt on the 18th to force a playoff. Lonard ran it 5 feet by the hole, then made that to finish alone in second. Had he missed, Lonard would have tied for second with Tim Wilkinson and moved up only to No. 53.

Lonard was not aware of this when he finished and was asked if the Masters was on his radar screen.

“No, it’ll probably be on my TV screen while I’m drinking beer or something,” he said. “Unless I win next week.”

The last chance to qualify is to win the Shell Houston Open, the final tournament before the April 10-13 Masters.

“I’ve never made a cut at Augusta, so it doesn’t really worry me whether I’m going or not,” Lonard said. “But I would like another go before I die.”

Kaymer was in Abu Dhabi and was runner-up to Tiger Woods at Dubai during the European Tour’s swing through the Middle East, helping him soar into the top 50 at No. 26. Leonard was outside the top 200 at this time last year, but his resurgence included a victory last fall in the Texas Open. He was at No. 25.

Five players won this year to qualify — Daniel Chopra, D.J. Trahan, J.B. Holmes, Steve Lowery and Sean O’Hair. This is the first time since 1999 that Augusta National has allowed winners of PGA Tour events to qualify for the Masters, provided those tournaments are full FedEx Cup events.

The Fall Series and opposite-field events, such as Mexico and Puerto Rico, did not count.

The Masters now has 93 players expected to compete, with one more spot available to the winner in Houston if he is not already eligible. Among those still not eligible is Davis Love III, whose 70 consecutive majors is the longest streak among active players.

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