The Masters is an invitation tournament, meaning the members at Augusta National Golf Club can technically invite anyone they feel like to participate in the annual April event. However, earning a Masters invitation isn't some kind of arbitrary process. There are 19 different ways a golfer can earn a place in the Masters field.
One way is by winning the Masters. Masters winners are exemption in the Masters basically for life, though the club has gently nudged some past champions to stop playing in the April tradition because they're incapable of posting respectable scores.
Winners of major championships also get a five-year invitation to the Masters on the basis of their major victory. So, if you won the 2013 US Open, British Open Championship or PGA Championship, then your exemption to the Masters expires in 2018.
The winners of The Players Championship gets a three-year exemption.
Players finishing in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of the prior calendar year or two weeks prior to the Masters earn invitations.
Winners of PGA Tour events not played opposite a major or World Golf Championship are invited to the Masters for one year.
Players who advance to the Tour Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs get into the Masters, as well the US Open and British Open Championship.
Let's run down the full list.
Masters invitation categories, exemption criteria
- Former winners of The Masters
- Winners of the last five U.S. Opens
- Winners of the last five British Opens
- Winners of the last five PGA Championships
- Winners of the last three Players Championships
- Winner and runner-up from the last U.S. Amateur Championship
- Winner of the last British Amateur Championship
- Winner of the last Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
- Winner of the last Latin America Amateur Championship
- Winner of the last U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship
- The top 12 finishers (including ties) from last year's Masters tournament
- The top 4 finishers (including ties), from last year's U.S. Open
- The top 4 finishers (including ties) from last year's British Open
- The top 4 finishers (including ties) from last year's PGA Championship
- Full PGA Tour event winners since the last Masters
- All players who qualified for the prior year's Tour Championship
- The Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of the prior calendar year
- The Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking published the week before the Masters
- Special invitations