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Augusta reverses past champions decision

"After discussions with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the Club has decided not to implement the past champions qualifications change next year," said Johnson. "Arnold, Jack and I agree that past winners should be able to play as long as they'd like, so long as they feel they remain competitive. We will count on our champions to know when their playing careers at the Masters have come to an end."

Past champions have been invited to play as long as they remained competitive since a 1970 letter from Cliff Roberts to Ben Hogan stated that the tradition should be preserved. However, a change was in the works that would put the age limit for the tournament at 65 beginning in 2004.

In 2002, former champions Doug Ford, Gay Brewer and Billy Casper received letters from Johnson urging them not to play. Some of those who will receive a reprieve with the change in policy are Gary Player, Tommy Aaron and Charles Coody.

Aaron made the cut in 2000 at the age of 63. Player, one of the most vocal players opposing the elimination of the lifetime exemption, had said we was promised by former Augusta Chairman Roberts that he could play as long as he remained competitive.

Palmer, a four-time Masters champion, reportedly made the decision to play after a practice round at Augusta on Thursday.

The final qualifiers through the Official World Golf Ranking and the PGA Tour money list were also available on Monday. John Huston, Tom Lehman, Tim Clark and Kirk Triplett all gained an entry into the tournament by finishing in the top-50 of the rankings.

Jay Haas, who finished tied for second at The Players Championship last week, moved into the top-10 on the money list to earn a spot along with Chad Campbell.


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