USGA CHAMPIONS
Amateurs, USGA Champions a Masters Tradition April 10, 2019 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By David Shefter, USGA

Viktor Hovland (left) and Devon Bling earned invitations to the 2019 Masters by reaching the final of the 2018 U.S. Amateur. (USGA/Chris Keane) 

Since its inception in 1934, the Masters Tournament – it was called the Augusta National Invitational until 1939 – has always invited top amateurs. It’s a tradition initiated by the club’s co-founder, Bob Jones, a nine-time USGA champion and career amateur who is considered one of the game’s greatest players.

Even after the professional game gained prominence in the post-World War II era, Jones and fellow co-founder Clifford Roberts always ensured that the best amateurs teed it up in the Masters. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods teed it up as amateurs before going on to garner a combined 10 green jackets.

While over the years, the number of amateur invitees has dwindled, the Masters still annually invites amateurs from premier competitions. The finalists from the previous year’s U.S. Amateur – the winner becomes a lifetime honorary invitee – as well as the champions of The Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A, the U.S. Mid-Amateur, the Asia-Pacific Amateur and the Latin America Amateur all receive invitations. The U.S. Amateur Public Links champion also received an invitation before the championship was retired in 2014, and members of the USA Teams for the Walker Cup Match and the World Amateur Team Championship were also invited for many years (along with the quarterfinalists from the previous year’s U.S. Amateur).

Besides the amateur invitees, the U.S. Open champion earns a five-year exemption into the field, along with the top four finishers (including ties) from the previous year’s U.S. Open.

This year, there are 19 current or past USGA champions in the field, four of whom earned their invitation based solely on performances in USGA championships.

USGA Champions in 2019 Masters Field

NAME

COUNTRY

USGA TITLE(S)

Angel Cabrera

Argentina

2007 U.S. Open

Bryson DeChambeau

USA

2015 U.S. Amateur

Matthew Fitzpatrick

England

2013 U.S. Amateur

Viktor Hovland (a)

Norway

2018 U.S. Amateur

Trevor Immelman

South Africa

1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links

Dustin Johnson

USA

2016 U.S. Open

Martin Kaymer

Germany

2014 U.S. Open

Brooks Koepka

USA

2017 & 2018 U.S. Open

Matt Kuchar

USA

1997 U.S. Amateur

Bernhard Langer

Germany

2010 U.S. Senior Open

Rory McIlroy

Northern Ireland

2011 U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson

USA

1990 U.S. Amateur

Kevin O’Connell (a)

USA

2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur

Justin Rose

England

2013 U.S. Open

Webb Simpson

USA

2012 U.S. Open

Brandt Snedeker

USA`

2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links

Jordan Spieth

USA

2009, 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur
2015 U.S. Open

Kevin Tway

USA

2005 U.S. Junior Amateur

Tiger Woods

USA

1991-93 U.S. Junior Amateur
1994-96 U.S. Amateur
2000, 2002, 2008 U.S. Open

Three of those with exemptions through USGA finishes are amateurs – 2018 U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland and runner-up Devon Bling, and 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Kevin O’Connell – while Martin Kaymer is in the last year of his five-year exemption for capturing the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2.

Of the 19 USGA champions, eight have won the U.S. Open, including Brooks Koepka, who will seek a record-tying third consecutive title in June at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Tiger Woods is the most decorated USGA champion in the field, having claimed nine titles. He is looking for a fifth Green Jacket this week at Augusta National. Woods, Koepka and Jordan Spieth are the only multiple USGA champions, with the latter having won a pair of U.S. Junior Amateurs (2009, 2011) to go with his 2015 U.S. Open triumph.

Whoever wins the 83rd Masters on Sunday will enjoy a five-year U.S. Open exemption. If it is 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the Northern Irishman will become the sixth player to have claimed the modern career Grand Slam, joining four-time U.S. Open champions Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, Woods, 1965 U.S. Open champion Gary Player and two-time U.S. Open champion Gene Sarazen.

And the club’s co-founder Jones? He also claimed a career grand slam, winning the amateur and open titles of the U.S. and Great Britain in 1930 before the term became part of golf’s lexicon. He also is the only person to win all four in a single season.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org

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