Two years after finishing runner-up in the Masters for a second time, Lee Westwood’s hopes of a 14th consecutive appearance in the season’s opening men’s major are hanging by a thread.
The Englishman is among a group of high-profile players who need to win this week’s PGA Tour event, the Shell Houston Open, to secure the last berth up for grabs at Augusta National.
Westwood, who was second on his own in 2010 before sharing that position behind compatriot Danny Willett in 2016, has slipped to 90th in the world. “It’s just the way it has fallen,” said the Edinburgh-based player recently. “I didn’t qualify for the WGC events in Mexico or Austin.”
At no more than 87 players, next week’s field will be the smallest for the event since 1997 but Westwood will have no qualms if he misses out. “I think it’s right the field is so small,” he added. “I haven’t played well enough so don’t deserve to be there.”
Others in the same boat as the 44-year-old heading into the Houston event are US Ryder Cup vice captain Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker, Russell Knox, Shane Lowry, Ernie Els and Ian Poulter.
Rory McIlroy, who is chasing a career Grand Slam in Georgia, has confirmed a return to the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, at the end of May. It will be his first appearance in the Wentworth event, which he won in 2014, since missing the cut the following year.
Elsewhere, Alva’s Lawrence Allan set the pace in the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School stage-one event at Haggs Castle with a bogey-free four-under-par 68.
He leads by a shot from Daniel Young, the 2015 South African Amateur champion who is now attached Kingbarns, Oliver Roberts of Archerfield Links and the unattached Jonathan Mullaney.
Cupar’s Alan Sutherland and Ben Murray of Portlethen fared best among a sizeable amateur contingent with matching 72s to sit joint eighth.
In the amateur ranks, Hazel MacGarvie and Laird Shepherd scored a title double for Stirling University in the Scottish Student Championships at Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth.