- The Augusta Chronicle - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Billy Payne, the Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament chairman, announced changes that could make it tougher to qualify for the 2014 Masters.

At his annual press conference Wednesday, Payne said the top 12 finishers and ties from this year’s Masters will be exempt into the 2014 event. In previous years, the tournament took the top 16 and ties.

Also, Masters officials cut in half the number of qualifiers from the U.S. Open, dropping the number to the top four and ties — the same number of exemptions as the British Open and PGA Championship.

The Masters Tournament also is eliminating the exemption for the top 30 PGA Tour money leaders at the end of the year, a rule that would’ve affected none of the players in this year’s field.

While Payne announced the paring of exemptions, he also announced the expansion of the cut number. Starting this year, the Masters will take the low 50 and ties, and anyone within 10 shots of the lead, after two rounds. Since 1962, the cut has included the low 44 and ties.

One of the big topics in golf is the proposed anchored putting stroke ban by Royal and Ancient Club and the United States Golf Association. The Masters is the lone major that hasn’t been won using a long putter or an anchored stroke. Payne didn’t offer an opinion on the proposed ban.

“We’re not a governing body. We’re a golf club that puts on a tournament,” he said. “We hope and believe common ground will be achieved so that one set of rules governs golf.”

While he didn’t go into the ban, Payne did talk briefly about new Augusta National members Darla Moore and Condoleezza Rice. He said he’s excited to have them on board working the tournament with the rest of the members this week.

“These two ladies are very special. It’s just been delightful,” Payne said. “We admitted them because they’re two great members of the club. I hope they’re having as much fun as we are.”

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