Buoyant Graeme McDowell chases Masters invite
Graeme McDowell is among the players looking to follow in the footsteps of Ian Poulter and secure a last-minute invite to the Masters at the Valero Texas Open.
The final place in the year’s first major at Augusta National will go to the winner of this week’s event at TPC San Antonio, but, if the winner has already qualified, the Masters field will remain at 86, the smallest since Tiger Woods registered his maiden major victory in 1997.
McDowell arrives in Texas on the back of a first win since 2015 in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, but that did not earn a Masters invite as it was an opposite-field event played in the same week as the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Last year Poulter was incorrectly told that reaching the quarter-finals of the Match Play was enough to get into the Masters via the world rankings, but after losing to Kevin Kisner in Austin the Ryder Cup star took matters into his own hands by winning the Houston Open in a play-off.
Seventeen players in the field in Texas are set to compete at Augusta, but two-time Masters runner-up Ernie Els, former US Open champion Lucas Glover and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington are chasing a place along with former world number one Luke Donald.
Rickie Fowler has no such worries as he qualifies for the Masters in several categories, including via his runners-up finish to Patrick Reed last year, and believes playing the week before a major is beneficial.
“Everyone’s different,” Fowler told a pre-tournament press conference. “Some guys are going to want to maybe make a trip up to Augusta in the weeks prior, stay home, practice, work with coaches, get ready that way.
“I like playing competitively if I can leading up to majors or some big weeks. So for me I played Houston in the past leading up to Augusta. I typically play the Scottish Open into the British.
“Sometimes into the US Open or the (US) PGA it can be different, it’s a little tougher with the schedule, but when I can I definitely have seen it be beneficial to play the week before,” he added.