On Masters eve, all this pro wants is to punch his ticket to Augusta

Akshay Bhatia looks on during the Valero Texas Open.

Akshay Bhatia has his sights set on a Masters invite.

Brennan Asplen/Getty Images

Akshay Bhatia has won on the PGA Tour since the 2023 Masters, but he’s not yet in next week’s field.

Four of his five closest chasers on the Valero Texas Open leaderboard will be in Augusta for the year’s first major. That even includes Ludvig Aberg, who will make his first-ever major appearance.

But the man who leads the field by four shots at TPC San Antonio as he seeks his first full-field PGA Tour win.

Once a “can’t miss kid” who bypassed high school by turning professional in 2019 at the ripe old age of 17, Bhatia took a little bit longer than some may have expected to arrive. It took him until 2022 to earn his Korn Ferry Tour card. He’s been on the fast track since, however. He won his first start as a KFT member and then he became a special temporary member of the PGA Tour last season.

Now it’s taking him longer than he might have expected to earn his first Masters invite.

Bhatia was upset last season when his win at the Barracuda Championship, an opposite-field event held the same week as the Open Championship last season, didn’t guarantee him a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. While it got him full-time status on the PGA Tour, it also didn’t get him into the Masters.

His biggest goals are to play in majors, he said Saturday night as he stands one round away from qualifying for his second one, and many more after.

“if I win, that’s great. I mean, it gets me closer to my goal,” Bhatia said. “Yeah, it doesn’t mean the world to me. I didn’t grow up playing on the PGA Tour necessarily to win just PGA Tour events, I grew up playing and dreaming of winning majors. That’s kind of my main focus for the years to come.”

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Only a win would get Bhatia into the field at Augusta as a runner-up wouldn’t be enough to boost him into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. But if he were to convert his first-ever 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, the 22-year-old would become the first Drive, Chip and Putt Championship participant to reach the Masters.

He’d also be the fifth player in the last six seasons to win the final event before Augusta to qualify for the Masters.

How will he stay in the moment in order to get the job done?

“Race my race.”

That’s what Bhatia is writing on his wrist before he plays right now.

“I’m just going at my own pace, focusing on myself, keeping the blinders right in front of me,” he said. “I look at that all the time because you can get caught up in a lot of things out here and if I’m just kind of doing my own thing and trying not to let outside stuff bother me, then I just can focus on myself and whatever the outcome is, it is.”

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