The field for next week’s eagerly-anticipated Masters will be the smallest for the opening men’s major of the season for 21 years, writes Martin Dempster.
No more than 87 players will be teeing it up at Augusta National on this occasion, the lowest since Tiger Woods claimed the first of four Green Jackets by 12 shots in 1997.
The number currently set to tee it up next Thursday is 86, with one spot available to the winner of this week’s PGA Tour event – the Shell Houston Open.
Scottish No 1 Russell Knox is among the players chasing that but not Martin Laird. He got into 2013 Masters by winning the preceding event – the Valero Texas Open on that occasion – but has decided against having one final throw of the dice this time around.
Four players got into the field after the final cut-off from the top 50 in the world rankings – Australian Cameron Smith, Satoshi Kodaira of Japan, South African Dylan Frittelli and Chez Reavie of the United States.
Ian Poulter agonisingly missed out by a single spot after being wrongly informed that he’d done enough to book his Masters berth by reaching the quarter-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas at the weekend.
As feared, US Open champion and former SSE Scottish Hydro Challege winner Brooks Koepka has confirmed his withdrawal from the event due to a wrist injury.
Elsewhere, Chris Robb and Ross Cameron came up just short in their bids to add to a title triumph by compatriot Liam Johnston earlier in the season on the Pro Golf Tour as they had to settle for second and third respectively in the Open Ocean 2018 in Morocco.
In an event won by Swiss player Benjamin Rusch on 14-under, former Scottish Amateur champion Robb was two shots behind after a closing 69 while overnight leader Cameron was two further back after a last-day 72. Cameron’s victory hopes were undone by a birdie-free round after making an eagle and 11 birdies over the opening two days.
Closer to home, the battle for cards on another third-tier circuit, the PGA EuroPro Tour gets underway around Britain today, with Haggs Castle in Glasgow hosting one of five stage-one events. Among the hopefuls in the 36-hole event are a handful of amateurs, including North duo Jeff Wright and Kyle Godsman as well as former Lothians champion Lee Morgan.
Former South African Amateur champion Daniel Young is also among just over 40 players battling to get through to next week’s 54-hole final at Frilford Heath on a circuit that contains 15 events this season, including one at Montrose in June and another at Newmachar in September.