Masters spots still up for grabs

For the first time, the winner of the Puerto Rico Open could earn a spot in the Masters.

But only if that winner is Wesley Bryan, and even that might not be enough.

This is the final week for players to get into the top 50 in the world and earn invitations to the Masters. Bryan is at No. 73 and still in the picture.

Bryan, who won three times on the Web.com Tour last year, had a solid stretch in the last month, tying for fourth at the Genesis Open and Honda Classic and tying for seventh in the Valspar Championship. He lost an opportunity last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational by finishing 69th and earning no ranking points.

Because he started only a year ago, he has the minimum divisor of 40 tournaments applied to his ranking average. Bryan is playing the Puerto Rico this week, and a victory might be enough to crack the top 50 in the world. Bryan, who grew up in South Carolina, lives in Augusta.

''I figure I might as well tee it up as many times as possible between now and Augusta and try to squeeze my way into the field,'' Bryan said.

The Puerto Rico Open winner does not automatically get into the Masters because it is held opposite the Dell Technologies Match Play, and even if Bryan were to win, what happens at Austin Country Club is likely to have a bearing on his chances.

Six players in the 64-man Match Play field are not yet eligible for the Masters. One of them is Charles Howell III, who was born and raised in Augusta. Howell is at No. 67 this week, and while the World Golf Championship offers big ranking points, everyone around him in the ranking is in the field.

Howell would need to reach the semifinals to have a chance to crack the top 50.

Howell already lost some ground by an unusual set of circumstances. He was virtually a lock to get into another WGC event at the Mexico Championship earlier this month by being in the top 10 in the FedEx Cup through the Honda Classic. The only thing that could keep him out was someone like Rickie Fowler winning the Honda and someone like Gary Woodland finishing second.

Fowler won, Woodland was runner-up and Howell was out of Mexico with no chance to pick up valuable ranking points toward his bid for the Masters.

Ross Fisher got into Mexico through the European Tour and made the most of it. He closed with three straight birdies to tie for third and get into the Match Play, and now at No. 53 in the world, Fisher could lock up a spot in the Masters if he wins his group in round-robin play that ends Friday.

The others at Match Play trying to get into the top 50 are Hideto Tanihara, Thongchai Jaidee, Joost Luiten and K.T. Kim. Tanihara would have to reach the quarterfinals to have a mathematical chance, Thongchai would have to reach the semifinals, and Luiten and Kim would need to reach the championship match or win a consolation match between semifinalists.

No one else in Puerto Rico can reach the top 50 except for Bryan.

The only other chance to get into the field would be to win the Shell Houston Open next week.