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Masters field beginning to take shape

The Okinawa Open in Japan is the final tournament that counts in 2004, although it won't create any major shake-ups in the world ranking that affects the Masters.

Toru Taniguchi is at No. 62 in the world ranking, and nothing short of a victory would move him into the top 50.

Augusta National invites the top 50 players in the final world ranking. Other than Taniguchi, there doesn't appear to be anyone who could break into the top 50 -- or fall out -- who has not already qualified.

A year ago, Loren Roberts dropped four spots, from No. 47 to No. 51, despite not playing golf in December.

The only players on the bubble who will drop out of the top 50 are Kirk Triplett (No. 48) and Nick Price (No. 50), and both already are on Augusta National's mailing list because they finished in the top 16 at the Masters this year.

The final qualification for the Masters is to be in the top 50 in the world ranking or the top 10 on the 2005 PGA Tour money list after The Players Championship.

Among those who will have to play hard the first three months of the season are Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman (No. 59), Brad Faxon (No. 60) and Justin Rose (No. 68), the 36-hole leader at the Masters who shot 81 in the third round and finished out of the top 16 by two shots.

The list currently does not include seven players who won PGA Tour events since the last Masters.

Three of them won opposite-field tournaments -- Jonathan Byrd (B.C. Open), Vaughn Taylor (Reno-Tahoe Open) and Bart Bryant (Texas Open). Two others -- Brent Geiberger (Greensboro) and Andre Stolz (Las Vegas) were on the verge of losing their PGA Tour cards.

The hard-luck case belongs to Joey Sindelar, who won the Wachovia Championship against an elite field that included Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Sindelar finished 41st on the money list by $13,254, missing out of a Masters invitation when Tommy Armour III missed a 3-foot par putt on the last hole of the last full-field event.

Also off the list is Woody Austin, who won the Buick Championship in Hartford and finished 45th on the money list.

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