AUGUSTA, Ga. - The Masters found a way to keep its field small while bringing in more PGA Tour winners.
The PGA Tour is going to a wraparound schedule that starts in October, meaning the six events held in the fall will be part of the FedEx Cup season. Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Wednesday the winners of those fall events will qualify for the Masters.
The only tour events that don't include a Masters invitation are those held opposite majors or World Golf Championships - the Puerto Rico Open in March, the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi and the Reno-Tahoe Open.
To allow room for more winners, however, the Masters is making its first changes to the qualifications since 2007.
Only the top 12 and ties from the previous Masters will be eligible to return, down from the top 16 and ties. The top eight and ties from the U.S. Open used to be eligible for the Masters. That number will shrink to the top four and ties, the same as the British Open and PGA Championship.
In the biggest change, the Masters will no longer include the top 30 from the PGA Tour money list.
• Ryo Ishikawa and Rory McIlroy made their Masters debut together, two teenagers in the same group, both filled with potential.
Four years later, they are nowhere near each other.
McIlroy is a two-time major champion who was No. 1 in the world until two weeks ago. Among betting favorites at Augusta National, he is second only to Tiger Woods.
Ishikawa didn't even think he would be at the Masters this year.
The 21-year-old from Japan had to rely on a special invitation for international players to return to Augusta for the fifth straight year. There was even some criticism at home that it was time for the prodigy to prove himself.
"I was surprised," Ishikawa said in a recent interview. "My world ranking is not so high, so I thought I was not coming."
• Defending champion Bubba Watson got a hole-in-one during his practice round. "Everyone is going to say he should have saved it," laughed Fred Couples, who was playing behind Watson's group and had a great vantage point for the ace.