Masters tweaks qualifications

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Masters is increasing the number of players who make the 36-hole cut from 44 and ties to 50 and ties beginning this year while maintaining that anyone within 10 strokes of the lead will advance to the weekend.

The tournament that dates to 1934 first instituted a cut to 40 players and ties and then to 44 and ties in 1962.

Club chairman Billy Payne announced the change Wednesday at his annual news conference preceding the tournament.

"We believe offering more playing opportunities for the participants over the weekend is a positive for everyone involved," Payne said.

Payne also said the tournament would extend its "win-and-you're-in" criteria to winners of PGA Tour events in the fall because of the new wraparound schedule that begins later this year.

Previously, tournaments after the Tour Championship did not receive full FedEx Cup points, thus their winners did not automatically receive a Masters invitation.

"All of us take great pride and pleasure in seeing a tournament winner beam with pride and excitement knowing that his victory had earned him an invitation to the Masters," Payne said.

To accommodate the additional players, the Masters is scaling back three other qualification criteria: The top 12 (down from 16) from the Masters will earn invitations the next year; the top four (no longer the top eight) from the U.S. Open, which is in keeping with the Open Championship and PGA Championship; and removal of top 30 on the PGA Tour money list (the top 30 in FedEx Cup points earn an invitation).