SCOTLAND’S “Three Musketeers” are likely to be drawing their swords against less glamorous opponents in the first round of next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona after the withdrawal through injury of Brandt Snedeker.
Up to a career-best fourth in the world rankings on the back of a red-hot run of form that was capped with a win in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last weekend, Snedeker has a rib injury and has been told by a doctor that he needs to rest.
His absence from Dove Mountain, where the opening WGC event of the season tees off on Wednesday, means that Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher and Richie Ramsay will no longer be taking on Francesco Molinari, Bubba Watson and Justin Rose respectively.
That’s how things stood earlier in the week in the seeded draw but now Lawrie is likely to be up against American Scott Piercy, Gallacher should take on Jason Dufner and Ramsay will probably lock horns with Australian Adam Scott.
Piercy could prove an awkward opponent for world No 32 Lawrie and not just because the 34-year-old should be used to playing desert golf given that he was born and bred in Las Vegas.
He is a two-times winner on the PGA Tour, the most recent of those successes – in last season’s Candadian Open – having helped earn him a spot in this year’s US Masters.
Gallacher and Ramsay, both making their debuts in the event, are unlikely to get things any easier against either Dufner or Scott than they would if they had been playing Masters champion Watson or world No 5 Rose.
Dogged Dufner, for instance, showed his liking for match-play by picking up three points out of four in last year’s Ryder Cup in Chicago, beating Sweden’s Peter Hanson in the last-day singles.
As for Scott, last year’s Open Championship runner-up will prove a handful for Ramsay if he can reproduce the form that saw him reach the semi-finals of the WGC event a decade ago before losing to eventual winner Tiger Woods.
Snedeker, who in his last three events has come second to Woods, second to Phil Mickelson and then first at Pebble Beach, started feeling soreness in his ribcage at the Humana Challenge last month and had more trouble last Thursday.
Currently on holiday with his family in Hawaii, he will return to his Nashville home later this week and is due to see a specialist, who has already suggested immediate rest and does not see it as a long-term issue.
Snedeker hopes to return for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in three weeks and told the PGA Tour website: “I certainly will miss competing in the Accenture Match Play Championship.”
His withdrawal follows that of Phil Mickelson, who is simply taking the week off to be with his family after five straight tournaments, and opens up a place for Sweden’s world No 66 Fredrik Jacobson in the 64-man field.
If there are no more pull-outs, Jacobson will take on world No 1 Rory McIlroy on Wednesday and 65th-ranked Shane Lowry will tackle Woods.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger is now on standby, with Scott Jamieson up to third reserve, although it is highly unlikely there will be enough further withdrawals to see the Glaswegian join Lawrie, Gallacher and Ramsay in the elite line-up.
Meanwhile, Gallacher has been pipped by Englishman Chris Wood for the European Golfer of The Month Award for January despite producing rounds of 62 and 63 en route to claiming victory in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Wood, a 25-year-old from Bristol, got the nod over Gallacher as well as Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the Volvo Golf Champions, and Abu Dhabi victor Jamie Donaldson thanks to a stunning eagle-3 at the final hole to claim his maiden Tour title at the Qatar Masters in Doha.
“Louis Oosthuizen’s stirring victory lifted him to fourth in the world rankings, but this was a month when the spotlight fell firmly on the awesome strength of British golf,” said a spokesman for the judging panel. “If truth be told there was barely a hair’s breadth between Donaldson, Wood and Gallacher.
“Donaldson achieved his win with the two best players in the world in the field, Wood fought back courageously for his maiden win and Gallacher won with a collection of astounding blows including five eagles.
“But Chris Wood, one behind with one to play, leapfrogged not only George Coetzee but also a player he grew up idolising in Sergio Garcia with a stunning last-hole eagle. Outside claiming a major, does it really get any better than that?”