Masters Field Taking Shape; One More Spot Up For Grabs
By: Bob Harig
AUSTIN, Texas -- The field for the 80th Masters awaits the possibility of just two more players: the winner of the Shell Houston Open and Tiger Woods.
The WGC-Dell Match Play Championship was the final opportunity to earn an invitation to the year's first major championship via the top 50 in the world category. Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello is the only player who was outside of that number who moved in, doing so by making it to the quarterfinals of the Match Play.
The Official World Golf Ranking becomes official Sunday night, and Cabrera Bello was projected to move inside the top 50 from No. 54.
If the winner of the Shell Houston Open is not already invited, he will earn the last spot in the field. Woods, 40, is invited for life due to his four victories in the tournament, but he has yet to say if he will participate. The 14-time major champion has not competed since the second of two back surgeries in October. His last tournament was a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in August.
Three others players who are invited have announced they will not play the tournament at Augusta National, which begins April 7. Jim Furyk is out due to wrist surgery, and two-time champion Jose Maria Olazabal is dealing with arthritis issues that have kept him out since the 2015 Masters. Sang-moon Bae had to forgo his invitation due to his South Korean mandatory military obligation.
Seven players entered the Match Play with a shot to move into the top 50: South Africa's Jaco Van Zyl (No. 52), Carbrera Bello (54), Belgium's Thomas Pieters (57), Australians Marcus Fraser (62) and Matt Jones (63), American Patton Kizzire (65) and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen (66).
To have any chance, they needed to at least make it to the Round of 16, which only Carbrera Bello and Kizzire accomplished. Cabrera Bello needed to reach at least the quarterfinals, which he did by winning his Saturday morning match over Ben An. Cabrera Bello made it to the semifinals, where he lost to Louis Oostzhuizen on Sunday morning. Kizzire lost to Ryan Moore in the Round of 16.
As the Masters field stands, there are 89 players scheduled to compete, the fewest since 2002.