Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson headed a host of big names to miss the Shell Houston Open cut in their final warm up for the Masters, where Tiger Woods could be set to make his return after being included on the interview schedule for the season’s opening major.
Spieth, who is returning to Augusta National on a mission after his back-nine collapse 12 months ago when he was on course for a successful title defence, crashed to a second-round 77 in his home-state event to sit three shots below the project cut on two-over-par.
Afterwards, he insisted that the early exit had not been made any easier to swallow by a poor forecast for the weekend. “No, because I was not playing this tournament just as a leeway into the Masters,” Spieth told PGA Tour Live.
“I was playing this tournament because I love this tournament and we lost in a play-off here before. I know we can have success. The weather in Augusta is not good on Monday, either.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the end of this week into next week. Our plan is probably to get there by Saturday night or Sunday morning and get to work.”
Open champion Stenson can also now turn his attention to trying to win a Green Jacket after disappointing rounds of 74 and 75, while Lee Westwood, who finished joints-second alongside Spieth behind Danny Willett last year, also missed the cut along with 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott and US Ryder Cup talisman Patrick Reed.
Woods has yet to announce if he will play in the Masters, but the fact he has been listed on the interview schedule ahead is an indication that he is seriously considering making his first outing since he withdrew following the first round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in early February due to back trouble.
The 41-year-old, who missed the Masters last year as he recovered from surgery, does not have to commit to the tournament until just before his first-round tee time, but he is scheduled to give a pre-Masters press conference on Tuesday at 6pm (BST) before attending the traditional champions’ dinner.
Asked a fortnight ago if he would be teeing up at Augusta National, four-time winner Woods said: “God, I hope so. I’m trying. I’m trying everything I can do to be able to get back and play. I love that event, it’s meant so much to me in my life. It has so much history and meaning to me that I’d love to get back there.”
Elsewhere, Catriona Matthew had work on her hands to make the cut in the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s major of the season, after carding an opening three-over-par 75 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
The Scottish No 1, who tied for second in this event a decade ago, was among the players who had to return to the course this morning to complete their round after play was suspended on Thursday due to high winds at the desert venue.
England’s Charley Hull, who had been in the same position, posted a 68 to lie a shot behind three joint-leaders – Caroline Masson, Karine Icher and Cristie Kerr. Hull finished runner-up 12 months ago to world No 1 Lydia Ko, who bounced back from her missed cut in last week’s Kia Classic with a 70 to sit handily placed. In contrast, Edinburgh-based American Beth Allen was joint-last after an opening 80.
On the amateur front, last year’s Scottish Order of Merit winner Euan McIntosh is looking forward to getting the new domestic campaign under way over the next two days in the Scottish Champion of Champions at Leven, where his rivals include GB&I squad member Barry Hume.
“I have done a lot of work over the winter trying to become more consistent and my game over the last few weeks finally feels in the right place,” said the Turnhouse man. “However, it’s all about how you putt. It’s going to be interesting to see if I improve on the totals I shot in each domestic event last year.
“That needs to happen as trying to play on the Seniors Tour will be a huge step up and I need to see an improvement. Plus it’s not easy to change things when you have the flexibility of a piano wire and are ancient.”
Still on the amateur scene, the fifth Links Golf Cup in East Lothian produced an English triumph as Nick Bird from Stourbridge held on to the top spot he’d held after the second round in the 72-hole event.
In the final circuit over a windy Gullane No 1, Bird picked up 31 Stableford points for a total of 147, winning by six points from Harburn’s Jim McGrane. Barry Sutherland from Duddingston was three points further back in third place.